Meta-phatics (3)

For an index of other posts in this series, jump to the end of this post. This one reviews the following sources:

Rank, Hugh 1984. A Few Good Words for Clichés. The English Journal 73(5): 45-47.

One language handbook, defining clichés as "trite, worn-out expressions," tells college students, "Good writers do not use trite, well-known phrases when simple, straightforward language and original expressions would be more effective." But on the next page admits, "Nearly every writer uses clichés from time to time, when they suit his purposes." (From time to time?) Another handbook warns: "We cannot avid trite expression entirely, for they sometimes describe a situation accurately. More fundamentally, of course, triteness is a disease of the personality. If people react to situations in stereotyped ways, their writings will reflect this fact. But the writer who burdens his language with clichés runs the risk of being regarded as a trite thinker." (Runs the risk?) (Rank 1984: 45)
Something for actual meta-phatics: idioms may be a good source of linguistic material for verbal approximations of human relations. If I'm not mistaken Goffman actually did take up idioms for his study of social behaviour (I'm thinking of "On Face-Work"). But then again, idiom was (also) a theoretical term for him, and he did construct a number of "technical" idioms himself (e.g. civil inattention).
There's disagreement (and confusion) among critics as to the definition of a cliché, but the common complaint is that of degree. A word or a phrase is objected to because it is overused, too common, too familiar, seen too much, used too often, by too many people, and so on. A worn-out phrase? To whom? In whose opinion? By whose measurement? (Rank 1984: 45)
The last sentence is a cliche itself, one would think.
But, usually these repeated idioms are not attacked as being cliché. Nor are those oft-repeated greetings and utterances (e.g., Hello, Good Morning, How are you, See you later, Bye Bye) which have been described as "phatic communion" - a "verbal togetherness," a cementing of social bonds. (Rank 1984: 45)
Verbal togetherness is, I have to admit, the most concise and exact paraphrase of phatic communion that I've seen.
Doublets and word pairs, however, are sometimes simply treated as idioms, sometimes ignored, and sometimes (if they become too noticeable) attacked as clichés. Doublets are often formed by repeating the same word (from time to time), synonyms (bits and pieces), opposites (friend or foe), directionals (up and down). People like to alliterate; people like to duplicate.
Over and over
Time and again
Null and void
Aches and pains
Bag and baggage
Bits and pieces
Lepas and bounds
In and out
Back and forth
Rise and fall
Here and there
All or nothing
Friend or foe
Safe and sound
Feast or famine
Head over heels
Hand over fist
Cloak and dagger
Do or die
High and dry
Hit or miss
Sick and tired
This and that
Skin and bones
Sticks and stones
Hale and hearty
Kith and kin
First and foremost
Last but not least
(Rank 1984: 45-46)
Huh. This is actually a pretty good scheme of how to play around with language.
While it is possible for us to say something unique - to put together a totally new arrangement of words never uttered or written by anyone else - most of our speech and writing is a repetition of frequently-combined words and phrases. Within a society, people are apt to say generally the same things in similar circumstances. Much of the oft-praised "common sense" of the "common man" is the tendency to be conventional: that is, moderate or even conservative in repeating the safe and established responses of the society. (Rank 1984: 46)
These few good words for cliches actually touch upon the matter of conventionality that in the correspondence on Relevance Theory approach to phatic communication was emphasized so much.
Yet, we need repetition and regularity for both clarity and speed. The more uncommon the word or phrase, the longer it takes for us to understand it. In our brain's memory bank, the search process takes longer, and we often get distracted from the flow of the conversation, if we're searching out individual words. If all our messages were original, fresh, new, and unusual, they would be hard for most of us to understand. Certainly, it would slow down communication to a snail's pace. (Rank 1984: 46)
This is essentially an echo of Herbert Spencer's economy of mental effort. It is also found in that Relevance Theory approach to phatic communication.
Social bonding is an important function of frequently repeated words and phrases. Here the term "vertical bonding" is used to suggest a bonding with the past, a linking with the previous speakers of the language: not only with their idiomatic patterns of speech, their favorite modifiers and metaphors, but also with the content (the wisdom, the advice, the ideas, the insights, the answers) passed on to us through the handing down of proverbs and sayings, allusions and quotations. "Horizontal bonding" is used here to suggest the bonding with our contemporaries in the present; people use the fashionable "buzzwords" of their era, the slang of the times and the jargon of the group, to identify themselves with, to bond themselves to, the group. (Rank 1984: 47)
This is pretty good. Mark this up for the metalingual+phatic conjunction.

Cruz, Manuel Padilla 2005. On the Phatic Interpretation of Utterances: A Complementary Relevance-Theoretic Proposal. Revista Alicantina de Estudios Ingleses 18: 227-246.

Since the anthropologist Bronislaw K. Malinowski (1923) described phatic utterances, little advance has been made in the study of them and their communicative functions, for some authors limited their contributions to repeating his ideas without further elaboration or offered a very negative characterisation of them. On the contrary, others tried to go beyond these works and explain the reasons why individuals interpret some utterances as phatic. (Cruz 2005: 227)
I'm not sure that it's true that little advance had been made until 2005. Laver is referenced, so are Couplands. Well, perhaps the advances have not been very groundbreaking, I'll give that. But Cruz is right on the money that many merely repeat Malinowski's ideas, sometimes even words, verbatim, for whole paragraphs on end. It's rare to find authors like Peace (2013) or Nozawa (2015) who manage to at least paraphrase creatively.
However, these works have not accounted for the cognitive operations that speakers and hearers have to perform in order to produce and interpret respectively a phatic utterance, nor why phatic utterances contribute to the creation of a feeling of solidarity and ties of union between interlocutors. (Cruz 2005: 228)
True, but the term "cognitive" in this context is altogether suspicious. And not only because Gregory Ward and Laurence Horn (1999) pointed it out in their critique of Žegarac & Clark (1999), but because it's reminiscent of so-called "cognitive sociology" (Cicourel 1974). Actually, now that I look over my few (un-commented) notes from Cicourel's Cognitive Sociology: Language and Meaning in Social Interaction (1974), I think I should really give that book another go. I didn't really understand what I was reading in the first months of 2012 when I read it.
When studying the linguistic behaviour of some Melanesian and Oceanic tribes, Malinowski (1923) observed narrative episodes which were not used to convey new and unknown information but were employed as a means of social interaction with a predominantly emotive function. This author called phatic communion "[...] [the] language [which] is used in free, aimless, social intercourse" (Malinowski, 1923: 476). (Cruz 2005: 228)
Wait, where does it manifest that it's "predominantly emotive"? It would go well with Hyme's "reciprocal expressive function". I've noted the relevance of this concept (without references, since I've read a HTML excerpt without page numbers), but I don't think i've elaborated much on it. Here, I would say that the distinction between "emotive" and "expressive" is relevant, and may explain why the phatic function can be paraphrased as reciprocally expressive. The problem with the emotive function is that it's not exactly expressive. In Jakobson's definition of the emotive function - or "expressive" function - the "expressive" is between quotation marks. He also remarks that "emotive" is preferred over "emotional" because Anton Marty has proved that it's preferable. How? Without reading Marty, whose book has not been translated into English from German, it's hard to tell. From what little secondary sources there are, I've made out as much that it's basically proto-phenomenology (following Franz Brentano and his gemütsbewegung) and implies that the emotion has an object (a phenomenological quick with which I don't completely agree), and that it's purpose (not sure if correct term) is to arouse a similar feeling in the recipient. Or, in Jakobson's own words, "It tends to produce an impression of a certain emotion, whether true or feigned". These are telling words, because producing an impression of an emotion in the other is not very "expressive" of one's own true emotions but rather a socially calculated - to use G. H. Mead's notion - conversation of attitudes. So "emotive" is not an unproblematic term. It has a history and backstory that few historical semanticists have trotted. And when it comes to Hyme's "reciprocal expressive function" I'd like to say that it's closer to Morris's communization, a sharing of emotions.
But Malinowski's (1923) legacy also consists of an ambiguous approach to phatic communion. Although this linguistic behaviour is considered essential for social interaction because of the ties of union that it creates, it is a type of discourse whose most remarkable feature is its triviality, obviousness or lack of interest. As a consequence, in other later descriptions some authors (e.g. Abercrombie, 1956: 3, 1998: 672; Turner, 1973: 212; Leech, 1974: 62) have assigned a negative value to it and stressed its defective nature as regards the transmission of referential information. (Cruz 2005: 229)
Firstly, ambiguity is right on the money - Malinowski wrote almost like an essay, and consequently it's even difficult to tell where the portion about phatic communion begins and where it ends; few pages are explicitly about it, but the surrounding text is thoroughly ambiguous. Secondly, what about "this kind of use of language also has great social value" (Abercrombie 1956: 2) and "far from being useless, this small-talk is essential to human beings getting along together at all" (ibid, 3) is assigning phatic communion a negative value or stressing its defective nature? For some reason I have a feeling that Cruz has not really read Abercrombie but taken this characterization over from secondary literature. Which is sad, really, since at one point Abercrombie proposes a context-based remark in relation with the interpretation of utterances that comes eerily close to the Relevance Theory approach: "'This is a good book', when said during casual party conversation, is an expression of opinion; but when said by a professor to a student it probably conveys information." (Abercrombie 1956: 62)
It can be concluded that these approaches presuppose an alternative type of discourse in which there is an authentic exchange of information and where language is not simply used to establish or keep the interactive contact between individuals (Coupland, Coupland and Robinson, 1992: 210). This has resulted in a distinction between an informative and a social type of discourse, which can be traced back to Malinowski's (1923) original distinction between language used as an instrument of reflection or as a mode of action, and has been present in our linguistic tradition in other dichotomies between two functions of language, which have reinforced the idea that "[...] talk was either giving information ('communication'), or doing something social ('phatic communion')" (Tracy and Naughton, 2000: 71). (Cruz 2005: 229)
I agree in part, since the equivalence between informative/social, reflection/action and communication/communion is correct. But I can't agree with the statement's general purport to historicity. This view is biased by interest in phatics. Really, if you look back on the history of linguistics then there appears a different dichotomy: "A number of students from various fields concerned with language activity have recently challenged the modern logistic view that would divide language from its beginnings into two separate spheres: the conceptual and emotive." (Heinz Werner and Bernard Kaplan in "Introductory remarks" to 1955. On Expressive Language) The distinction between "thought" and "emotion" in language reaches back to at least the 19th century, and can be found in the Russians (Potebnja and consequently Russian formalism) as well as in the West (the poet Yates wrote an essay on the matter in the 1890s).
The studies that account for the reasons why individuals interpret some utterances as phatic can be classified in two groups. On the one hand, there are those that relate their phatic interpretation to their being constituents of discourse structures occurring in very specific conversational phases. On the other hand, are those studies that argue that the phaticity of an utterance is not one of its inherent properties, but depends on the interlocutor activating particular mental structures and on the way in which he processes it. (Cruz 2005: 229-230)
By and large I've found a similar divergence in terms of researchers who emphasize the opening and closing phases (like John Laver) and those who emphasize all that goes into the maintenance, continuation, or preservation of contact (studies on pragmatic markers, etc.).
In many cases, these sequences consist of adjacency pairs (e.g. Schegloff, 1972; Schegloff and Sacks, 1973; Sacks, 1992) which, following Hoey (1991: 67), are frozen pairs owing to their little variability and high predictability. This favours interlocutor's interpretation of such utterances as phatic (Coupland, Coupland and Robinson, 1992; Coupland, Robinson and Coupland, 1994), particulacly because many of them are not understood as first topics (Schefloff and Sacks, 1973: 300). On the contrary, they do not transmit authentic factual information because they "[...] [are] oriented toward the interaction, relational aspect of communication" (Pavlidou, 1994: 490). (Cruz 2005: 230)
It is odd when terminology of a field that I've very little interest in is becoming so familiar that I recognize most references out of hand. I've met the term "frozen pairs" before, but without reference. Presently I'm thinking if it could have something to do, or at least compared with, one of the "five clocks" of Martin Joos, one of which was "frozen" and gave Edward Hall the idea of "frozen style", which is the style of social contact that remains within the bounds of these "frozen pairs" - you work your routine utterances and you're done; like "please" and "thank you" at the convenience store.
In my opinion, the phatic interpretation of some utterances may be conditioned by the fact that an interlocutor perceives them as being constituents of highly predictable frozen pairs occurring in the opening or closing phases. Thus, if an individual responds to an utterance with another that is the preferred element of the pair that both constitute, he may be indicating understanding that his interlocutor's intention was for him to interpret the first utteracne as phatic. In this way, following Blimes (1988: 74), the second leement confirms that the first one has been interpreted correctly, as in (1) below. Although an individual may intend the hearer to process an utterance as phatic, the hearer may not necessarily recognise this, so that, if the second element were the dispreferred one, he would be communicating that he has not understood it as phatic, as in (2):
  1. A: How are you doing?
    B: Fine, thanks.
  2. A: How are you doing?
    B: Well, I've got a terrible headache today and my legs...
(Cruz 2005: 230-231)
Thus far this makes perfect sense. In my own words, what makes some utterances phatic is that they are conventionalized to the degree of being restrictive: you either say and do the right thing to be polite, or you commit a faux pas and must live with the guilt of having broken protocol and slightly offended the other person by not taking to their simple, surface, non-committing meaning. I would like to use the metaphor of "breaking the ice" and add falling into ice cold water, but I'm not clever enough to pull that off.
Relevance Theory (Sperber and Wilson, 1986, 1995) is aimed at explaining why an individual selects one interpretation of an utterance out of many possible ones and believes it to be the interpretation that the speaker might have intended to communicate. It conceives communication as an ostensive-inferential activity in which the speaker modifies the hearer's cognitive environment - i.e. the set of facts that are manifest to him or, in other words, which he can represent mentally - which an utterance because she has an informative intention, which is the set of assumptions that she intends to make manifest to him (Sperber and Wilson, 1986, 1995: 58). (Cruz 2005: 233)
As I already thought when reading Žegarac and Clack (1999), this is pretty much Peircean phaneronoscopy made into a communication theory. The cognitive environment is the phaneron - the sum total of phenomena manifest to the person at any given moment, and communication involves a mutual modification of these phenomenal fields. It's extremely cognitivistic, as compared to, for example, the behaviouristic or sociobiological understanding of communication, according to which people modify each other's behaviour through communication, rather than thoughts. But behaviourism also denies the accessibility of mental representations.
According to Sperber and Wilson (19862 1995: 157, 270) and Wilson and Sperber (2002: 251, 256-257), individuals are always interested in establishing the optimal degree of relevance of the information that they receive, so utterances must communicate a presumption of their own optimal relevance: their production must be accompanied by a tacit guarantee that their processing will provide the hearer with cognitive effects that compensate his processing effort and that they are the most relevant ostensive stimuli that the speaker can think of, depending on her abilities and preferences. (Cruz 2005: 234)
I should make a list of these "happy medium" notes. I've met something like it before among these papers. The relevant precedent is Abercrombie's "comfortably intelligible pronounciation", which can be generalized as comfortable intelligibility. This, plus optimal relevance, and something else in relation with phatics could already make something to write about.
Like other authors, they also think that the phaticity of utterances is not one of their inherent features but depends on the interpretation that interlocutors make of them. (Cruz 2005: 234)
Another list is necessary for notes about the contextuality of phaticity, especially when it comes to intercultural factors. What is phatic for one may not be so for another.
Thus, a hearer will regard (8) as phatic because of its form; if the speaker did not intend him to do so, she would have to resort to another formulation, such as (9) or (10), where the additional linguistic material increases the hearer's processing effort and allows the speaker to show her real interest in the hearer:
(8) How are you?
(9) How are you these days?
(10) How are you now that you've had the operation?
(Cruz 2005: 235)
I've emphasized showing "real interest" because I didn't notice this in Žegarac and Clark (1999), nor in their correspondence with critics. This has profound implications, I think, for our understanding of phatic. The core of it being that phatic communication is in some way disinterested, perhaps even debased, form of communication. The Phatic Man (as one deviantart poet put it) is annoying because he's not really interested in you; he's talking at you, not with you. The Phatic Man does not understand that you're not willing to communicate with him at the moment. This needs to be developed further, maybe even fortified with further reading about the role of interest in interpersonal interaction. As to the form of the argument itself, and the original emphasis on "processing effort", thanks to Rank (1984; above) I've managed to connect this to a topic more familiar to me - Herbert Spencer's theory of least effort.
This is only possible if their cognitive environment includes assumptions about different ways of interacting, the relevance of particular conversational topics or the social norms which establish what counts as appropriate linguistic behaviour. (Cruz 2005: 235-236)
Emphasis on roles and norms is what makes the sociology in cognitive sociology cognitive.
Although the notion of phatic communication is rather intuitive, it is precisely the similarity arising between the interpretations of a wide array of utterances sharing specific characteristics that helps interlocutors identify them as phatic. (Cruz 2005: 236)
The problem for Ward and Horn (1999) was that these "specific characteristics" are not drown out clearly enough.
Sperber and Wilson (1986, 1995: 227-229) argue that an utterance may describe an existing or desirable state of affairs when its logical form represents that very state of affairs. On the other hand, if its logical form represents another public or private representation because of the similarity arising with the logical form of that representation, the utterance interprets it, i.e. it is a metarepresentation (e.g. Sperber, 1994). That relation of similarity originates because the utterance and that representation share a series of logical and contextual implications, and increases as the number of tohse implications increases. (Cruz 2005: 237)
Cool, but this really made me think of another aspect of phatic communion rarely if ever addressed. It is not the case that the referential function completely lapses in phatic utterances. If we're dealing with the type of small talk that addresses some completely obvious state of affairs, as Malinowski says it does (e.g. comments on the weather), then it's not completely non-referential, is it? It still has a referential function but it's subordinated to the dominant social function. In that sense it is also at least minimally "contextual" as well. Here the metarepresentations arise because there's a similarity between utterances. But that's exactly the point of Jakobson's referential function - it refers to similar messages in other contexts. (That's because Jakobson's idea of reference to context is basically a literary allusion in poetry, for example.)
In her work on metarepresentations, Noh (2000: 74-78) introduced the notion of metarepresentational use of utterances, which alludes to cases in which utterances represent other acts of communication. She distinguished between metalinguistic and interpretive metarepresentational utterances: the former metarepresent abstract linguistic expressions while the latter metarepresent other utterances or thoughts. Within this last type of metarepresentations she grouped what she termed echoic metarepresentations, by means of which the speaker also transmits a certain attitude towards the metarepresented content. (Cruz 2005: 237)
This is extremely interesting. Reference to Noh, E. J. 2000. Metarepresentation. A Relevance-Theory Approach. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. But I'm completely unable to make a substantive comment on it at the moment. I'd like to compare this to Ruesch and Bateson's metacommunication somewhere down the line.
As in the case of irony (Sperber and Wilson, 1986, 1995), it must be stressed that for a phatic utterance to produce the cognitive effects intended by the speaker, the hearer must recognise that that utterance is echoic, identify the metarepresented thoughts, opinions or assumptions and understand that the speaker's attitude towards them is one of endorsement or acceptance. (Cruz 2005: 239)
A very technical way to conceptualize "emphasis on affirmation and consent" that Malinowski attributes to phatic communion. Endorsement and acceptance are near-synonyms of affirmation and consent. Perhaps I may use this in my paraphrasis of Malinowski's treatment. (I intend to use the expressions provided by later authors, such as Rank's (1984) "verbal togetherness", to attempt a complete paraphrase or intralingual translation of the section of Malinowski's appendix that treats of phatic communion.)
Imagine that a group of former university students who spent some years together in a hall of residence meet for dinner at a restaurant several years after having ended their studies and left the hall. All of them enjoyed their time at the hall quite a lot for they shared great experiences going out to pubs, discos or parties, meeting and making new friends, discovering the meaning of comradeship, etc. Since they lived and spent so much time together, they have stored in their minds, as part of their biographical knowledge, assumptions about different aspects of the time spent in hall. Moreover, their time in hall has been a recurrent topic of conversation on previous occasions when they have gathered. For this reason, some of the assumptions that each of them entertains individually will also be manifest to the others and some of them will even be very similar or practically identical. (Cruz 2005: 240)
This is the best approximation of Ruesch's interpretation of communization that I've met. It is, dare I say, quoteworthy for when I treat communization and identification in more detail. As a sidenote, it may be worth while to include E. R. Clay's treatment of "retrospect" in relation with "common experience" (in Clay's opinion, after all, retrospect is a kind of experience). This should be made more easy due to the fact that since Clay was presumably a Peircean or quasi-Peircean thinker (perhaps having read a few papers published by Peirce at the time) Clay also has a term for phaneron; although it's not cognitive environment it may be serviceable enough to advance a phaneroscopic theory of communication.

Faucher, Kane X. 2013. Thumbstruck: The Semiotics of Lking via the "Phaticon". Semiotic Review 3. URL: http://www.semioticreview.com/index.php/open-issues/issue-open-2013/12-thumbstruck-the-semiotics-of-liking-via-the-phaticon.html.

At issue here would be what the ubiquitous blue thumb means in terms of signs. It is not the case that the iconic thumb is meaningless, but that its meaning is rendered ambiguous after penetrating the surface level of mere approbation, and that its meanings cannot be inferred precisely from its social context. One of the functions of the thumbi s a popularity metric that supplies three parties with data: 1. The recipient with validation or recognition for a past; 2. The other users who see the quantity of "likes" as indication of popular value which may lead to "herding," and; 3. Facebook itself which relies on a sophisticated clustering algorithm to deliver "relevant" user activity to other associated nodes in the network as well as possibly providing data for targeted advertising. (Faucher 2013: 1)
Are "validation" and "recognition" also not near-synonyms of "affirmation" and "consent"?
The Facebook thumbs-up (including the variations on the same theme found on other SNSs) is a digitized gesture signaling approval, approbation, agreement, praise or even on occasion a reminder to the receiver of the sender's existence. It is in some cases a form of reward feedback system. In other cases it signals the minimum amount of social effort required between two nodes or users on Facebook. (Faucher 2013: 1)
The same goes for "approval", "approbation", "agreement" and "praise". Reminder of one's existence is also phatic (consider Nozawa's "Phatic Traces" (2015)), but the roles seem reversed: in a quintessentially phatic exchange the sender reminds the receiver of the sender's continued existence. The minimum of social effort is an expression of "willingness to communicate" as Žegarac and Clack (1999) put it.
Facebook, however, only allows one of two choices that the user must decide between: to click on the "like" or to refrain from doing so; ther is no "unlike" button on Facebook, possibly for reasons of mitigating conflict scenarios online, abiding in part by Leech's (1983) "maxims of politeness," and ultimately to foster a high-trust culture by removing esteem-damaging options that might discourage or inhibit users from sharing more content that is vital to Facebook's need to learn more about its users for the purposes of targeted advertising and "relevant" content display for its users. (Faucher 2013: 1-2)
Not unconnected to Dale Carnegie's denouncement of criticism. In intersemiotic translation the choice of options really amounts to "if you haven't anything good to say, don't say anything at all". // Also, there is an "unlike" button: you can take back the "like" you have given; what there isn't is a "dislike" button.
Given the phatic function of "liking," and its nebulous signification, posted content is effectively a "raising of the flag" in the attention economy to which other users are free to ignore, like, or qualify their dislike by means of the comment box area. In this way, the "like" may appear to be a sign, but more functions like a signal to indicate the presence of content that other users can interact with by giving their (dis)approval. (Faucher 2013: 2)
As I hypothesized while reading Vincent Miller's (2015) recent paper, the social media culture is not so much "phatic" as he makes it out to seem but there definitely is a strict economy of attention. I may have to revisit Herbert Spencer's theory of mental effort to back my argument there.
It may also be an event of reciprocity or trying to create the conditions of reciprocity, such as a user feeling obliged to click "like" on the basis of a history of having had content "liked," or to initiate the possibility of exchange by being "prosocial" in "liking" the content of other users in the hopes that the gesture will be reciprocated. (Faucher 2013: 2)
Another score for phatic as "reciprocal expressive function". In this regard the situation boils down to something like "promise of continuation of the relationship" and anticipation of "a repeated encounter" (Laver 1975: 230-231).
The object-icon of the thumb becomes the comunicative conduit for phatic expression insofar as it contains no other information beyond an automatic social exchange to indicate a user having seen and acknowledged a posted object. This should not come as a surprise that much of our digital social interaction, modeled as it is on post-cybernetic systems of feedback and control in new media, should increasingly take on more phatic forms of communicative exchange which streamlines communication so that it harmonizes with rapid feedback delivery of content in terms of display and engagement. (Faucher 2013: 5)
In other words, and according to Relevance Theory, the thumbs up is phatic insofar as it has no other relevant meanings other than affirming contact or willingness to communicate.
Karl Buehler ([1934]1990, and later revamped by Jakobson 1960) provides us with three registers for gesture that can be either emotive (expression of sender's feelings, such as giving the middle finger to express anger), appelative (a gesture that is directed at a receiver, such as an accusatory finger), or phatic (signaling the sender's interest in maintaining or regulating the communication event such as an open palm indicating to the receiver to continue speaking, or making a downward motion with the hand to indicate a command for the speaker to lower his or her voice). (Faucher 2013: 6)
This is all wrong. Bühler provides three functions, yes, but phatic is not among them. The author is completely leaving out the cognitive/referential function - and reasonably so, because the thumb really does not communicate an "idea" as such. On the other hand I am intrigued that "regulating" is included under phatic. While phaticity is frequently treated as "the lubricant of social cogs", and most definitely has a communication theory link to metacommunication and consequently regulation (I have a theory that Jakobson conflated the "regulation" of effect, the "seventh" function that got lost in translation), it is really an oddity to see it placed alongside "maintaining" as if they were synonymous (which, still, they in systems theory sense definitely are). I don't know what to say - sometimes when people engage with these authors very tangentially, e.g. Faersch & Kasper (1982); Nord (2007), they come up with most insightful suggestions, or most suggestive insights.
It may seem at first blush that the "thumb" can be considered under all three registers since in the emotive register the thumb can indicate the sender's feeling or attitude toward the user and/or the user's posted content; in the appelative register the thumb is intended to be directed at the receiver and/or the receiver's content; and in the phatic register the thumb may be an invitation to continue communication or to post more content that will meet approval. (Faucher 2013: 6-7)
Again, the ideational register is missing. But it is made up with insightful comments on the phatic function. "Post more content" is the more interesting of these. Like the British comment, "is it?", the "like" in some sense says, "please keep talking".
The thumb icon as a prompt is perhaps a visual intonation as part of a digital symbolic frequency code. (Faucher 2013: 8)
Now that I think about it, just as with Peace (2013), this is one of those papers that could very well have adduced great value from La Barre's (1954) version of phatic communication, if only it were more widely known. Eh, a situation to rectify, I guess.
We might also suspend our earlier claim that "liking" is entirely phatic if we are to consider that at least some minimum of information is being exchanged. In the case of "liking," the information carried by this communicative event will contain the identity of the user doing the "liking." However, beyond this, "liking" remains ambiguous in terms of its motivation, and no idea or additional information can be inferred from the act itself. In many respects, the phatic function of "liking" is a form of small talk alongside prefatory words like "well." Phatic functions align smoothly with general principles of politeness and prolonging communication. The thumb becomes a simplification of phatic expression in the form of interactive icon that automates the function. It [is] in this way that we may describe the thumb icon as a "phaticon." (Faucher 2013: 8)
And here, I think, the author could have made good use of the concepts of communization and identification. For the "like" does not only identify me, the person who likes, but in a social sense it identifies me with both the person who posted the content as well as the content itself. Liking another's post is, in G. H. Mead's terms, a participation in the other.
Most SNSs are, in fact, obfuscated prisonhouses that guide and direct human behaviour in their environments making use of several prompts and cues that constrain choice under the illusion of freedom, be it the limited options in a drop-down menu, the limited options for accessing content by constraints in access channels, or the algorithm that determines what will be relevant to the user. (Faucher 2013: 9)
In this regard there is a distinction that must be drawn between face-to-face (or f2f as this author abbreviated it) communication and computer-mediated communication. When another person approaches you in real life the mere physical presence or proximity prompts phatic routines of propitiation (breaking the silence in order to reduce interpersonal tension and feelings of threat), while there is no such prompting in a virtual environment. Rather, it is the post feed that acts as a less-threatening, indeed of a completely different nature, type of presence or proximity. The only way to gain unqualified attention for oneself on Facebook is to post. In this sense there is an onus to keep posting in order to maintain contact. That's something I think should be investigated in social media networks, i.e. not only the messages that attract attention but the underlying reasons, mechanisms and means for doing so.
Digital environments such as Facebook are heavily hodological in nature, which is to say that they operate according to preset pathways that delimit options for access and interaction. Although SNSs such as Facebook do not determine the content variations that can occur, its enframing mechanisms ensure activity occurs within its organizational grid, and that communication flow is governed by the options available to its channels or conduits. (Faucher 2013: 9)
I have no idea what that means, and the author does not refer to anything, so I'll have to check it out when I'm connected to the Internet. But I'll record it just in case because it sounds interesting. Perhaps that is exactly what I meant in my previous comment? I'm not sure.
With further research, we may arrive at the relation that possibly exist between automated phatic functions and how these facilitate the gamification of non-game environments. The plain fact that Facebook controls the phatic function in terms of providing only one means by which this can be expressed quickly is of a piece with its overall ideology of assuming control over ceratin communication functions in a way that is homogeneous and consistent which aids the algorithm, mainly the social "game" in terms of efficiency and speed, and ensures some measured degree of polite social interaction. (Faucher 2013: 12)
This is the terminological takeaway from this paper: automated phatic functions. I'll be awaiting further research on this matter, and would like the author to develop further connections with, for example, phatic technological habituation. // In hindsight what this reminds me of is of the prediction that soon we'll have "cogs" in our heads (e.g. "links" from that Stargate episode where people live inside a dome and a central computer enables them mental access to the internet through a small clip-on head-set). In any case the guy forecasts that in the future we'll have something like that and it will change our sociable behaviour, because now we can access witty quips or relevant information when interacting briefly with friends and acquaintances, bosses and coworkers, and so on. This would in effect constitute a sort of automated phatic function and a "gamification" of social interaction.
Facebook operates according to two functions: connection (the connecting of users) and interaction (conversational content between users). In terms of social network analysis, information flow is interactional in terms of affinities, and connectivity is relational. (Faucher 2013: 12)
This is good. Though in more traditional terms, these would be interaction and transaction. Though, wait, no, it's up to debate whether adding someone as a friend (connecting with another user) qualifies as "interaction". But I'll still hold that interacting with content is more like transaction because in systemic sense the users are living systems themselves interacting in a communication system with further subsystems of content (here the image- or text-based content plus the functions of liking and commenting would constitute a subsystem). But I'll leave it at that.
From a semiotic standpoint, the thumb icon does not prove too problematic; from a social and semantic context we might question the value of accumulating what is the equivalent of ompty "whazzup?s" or "how's it going?s" as a measure of self-worth and self-value in the online environment. (Faucher 2013: 14)
It doesn't have to be as explicit as that. The social value of a person in real life can easily be accrued by the amount and frequency of looks, smiles, nods, etc. that person garners. But I understand the absurdity of the comparison. This was a better paper than I expected. Should have read it sooner, when dealing with phatic technologies.

Lomborg, Stine 2012. Negotiating Privacy Through Phatic Communication. A Case Study of the Blogging Self. Philosophy & Technology 25(3): 415-434.

The article contributes to the discussion of ethical behaviour and privacy protection in social media by highlighting the role of phatic communication in the blog. Specifically, I demonstrate how participants in the blog network negotiate and maintain an ethos of privacy protection in and through practices associated with the phatic. They do this by adhering to a 'principle of sociability', allowing them to experience their communication as personal but not private. (Lomborg 2012: 415)
The phatic? What's that? And what practices are associated with it? "Personal but not private" on the other hand makes intuitive sense: personal blog is personal but it does not have to be set to private (but may). A traditional diary, on the other hand, is in most cases both personal and private.
A core principle of these spaces, and the internet in general, is the idea of 'produsage' (Burns 2008), denoting the processes through which ordinary peolpe play an increasingly important role as content providers and stakeholders in shaping emergent communicative genres in collaboration with fellow users. Being online implies engaging in a variety of communicative practices and, for most of us, meeting people with whom we may share anything from brief encounters and peripheral awareness to lifelong, close companionship. The expression of self varies accordingly, and is shaped both by the communicative genres in which we praticipate and by the people we interact with. (Lomborg 2012: 416)
This especially heartfelt in music: last.fm, soundcloud, and bandcamp have thoroughly transformed how the current generation approaches music (how it produces as well as consumes it, and everything in between). The same is currently happening with science. Online databases like JSTOR, EBSCO, Google Scholar, academia.edu, etc. are transforming how we access scientific information, what we do with it, etc. It may be that one day, just like no-one really needs a record label to make music and gain a sizeable audience, there will come a time when research institutions have become obsolete and the most innovative research comes from activist-scientists who need little more than a laptop and internet connection. We may already be living in that time.
The emphasis on negotiation is grounded in an understanding of the self as networked and relational. For the theoretical foundation of this article's investigation of the blogging self, I draw on Georg Simmel's relational conception of the self as developed in the essay The web of group-affiliations (1955). In this essay, Simmel locates individual identity at the intersection of social circles; that is, he considers a person's self as the sum of its expression in the different social groupings or networks to which this individual is connected. (Lomborg 2012: 416)
As is frequently the case, Ruesch & Bateson (1951) were ahead of more popular authors. Their concept of intrapersonal network already covers the ground Simmel trots.
The variations in the expression of self are thus not unique to the experience of being online. In any specific setting, some elements of our identity are highlighted, while others are toned down. We constantly attune our behaviour and thinking to the different contexts of interaction in our daily lives because the social settings in which we relate to others (e.g. work vs. hom, friends vs. acquaintances) are characterised by different agreements about the purpose of social interaction and which rules and norms of interaction are salient. (Simmel 1955: 139). (Lomborg 2012: 416)
Participation in the other. Presentation of the self. Nuff said.
With ordinary people as the core content providers, personal information often takes centre stage. More often than not, interaction with peers in blogs, social network sites, Twitter and the like evolves around personal interests, and sometimes, users share rather than intimate details from their personal lives. Once online, the initial author can no longer control the personal information given - the data is 'greased' (Moor 2002; Ess 2009: 14-16) and possibly made available to invisible and unintended audiences (Boyd 2008: 26-33, Viégas 2005). Consequently, the audience, or network of affiliation, in the context of social media plays a pivotal role in negotiating privacy norms and ensuring a sense of privacy for the individual user. (Lomborg 2012: 417)
What is doxxing?
Second, through an interactional analysis of the key norms surrounding the relational dynamics within the threaded conversations, I demonstrate that participants exhibit a strong sense of mutual commitment, epitomised in phatic communication and the creation of continuous social presence and listenership in the cluster. (Lomborg 2012: 418)
Several items in this are new to me. I know of social dynamics, but relational dynamics is new. Mutual commitment is most definitely phatic but I'm hard pressed to think of precedents in other phatic studies.
According to Simmel, an individual marks his or her membership in distinct social circles by attuning his or her conduct to the norms of the group and context in a process of socialisation (Simmel 1955: 138-142). Accordingly, understanding the characteristics and norms of conduct in a given social setting becomes pivotal to describing an individual's expression of self in this context. (Lomborg 2012: 418)
Something about this screams "metacommunication", but maybe it's just because there's a component of learning in it. Membership signalling through mannerisms of conduct sounds enticing, though I've yet to figure out how to connect similar concerns in linguistics (whatever else I gathered from Jakobson's writings that are tangentially related to phatics).
The choice of affiliation thereby reflects the aspects of the individual's personality that he or she would like to emphasize. The infrastructure of the internet enables an intensification of such freely chosen and interest-based networks by allowing people to connect with like-minded strangers across space and time in a way that was not possible before. This easy access and possibility to connect with like-minded others is part of what attracts many people to blogging. (Lomborg 2012: 419)
This is my personal experience as well. While this blog is little more than an online compendium of reading notes (I took to blogging like this first in order to not forget the books I've read, and then it developed into something like a scholarly notebook), because I've read and written so much about phatics here, people who study phatics themselves gravitate towards it. Pre-internet it would have been unimaginable that researchers studying the same topic would find each other with such ease.
While most state that they blog primarily for their own pleasure, there is a widespread agreement that getting comments makes blogging considerably more exciting, partly because comments are considered a means of recognition and a way of signalling interest in each other. (Lomborg 2012: 421-422)
We're getting phatic, we're getting phatic! Recognition and interest could very well be keywords for the previous paper about the "like" button in Facebook.
This entails looking at how author and commentators actively and collaboratively manage their relationships through the communicative practices on the blog - in other words, what these practices accomplish in terms of facilitating relationships. Considering that blogging participants often do not know each other in advance and therefore have no 'obligation' to commit to each other, what compels the parties to actively and continuously participate in the blog cluster? (Lomborg 2012: 422)
Management is Jakobsonian, but facilitation is a term I've seldom met in phatic studies - perhaps in Wang et al. on phatic technologies? In any case, what compels people to participate in phatic communion was also on Peace's (2013) mind - there is no compulsion to greet other drivers with a raised finger in the Australian outbacks but people nevertheless hold up this secular ritual. The answer, I think, was given by Malinowski almost a century ago: "we come to one of the bedrock aspects of man's nature in society. There is in all human beings the well-known tendency to congregate, to be together, to enjoy each other's company." (Malinowski 1946[1923]: 314) I see no reason why this isn't also the bedrock aspect of man's nature in social media.
In this section, I explore a central challenge to blogs, namely how participants can create a sense of mutual social presence and engagement despite the lack of physical co-presence and temporal synchronicity. In this process, phatic elements in communication play a vital role as presence markers.
A main expectation of blog participants is the continued presence of the blogger. Social presence in the blogosphere is most simply demonstrated by frequent posting. (Lomborg 2012: 423-424)
Exactly the concern I had above while reading the previous paper. On Facebook, too, social presence and engagement is fostered only by regular and frequent posting.
In this connection, one commentator even argues that bloggers who leave their blogs owe their readers some kind of explanation (18/4a). (Lomborg 2012: 424)
I agree. Just today I happened to revisit Tyler Fugazzie's old blog, "Hand it!", which ends with a note saying that he's engaged in a new project. A link is provided to the new project, with its own domain, but because he probably moved on to yet another blog and didn't keep the domain going, it's a dead end. It would be an insistence, but also nice, if people who move on from project to project go back and retrospectively update where they are and what they're doing.
In a sense, then, bloggers and readers are mutually constitutive, urging each other to continue interacting through their posting and commenting activities. Extending this point, one might even suggest that this mutual constitution reflects some sort of contract of participation that characterises the blog as a genre - blogging conversations are only kept vibrant through the mutual commitment of authors and commentators to keep their engagement going and to meet each other's expectations. (Lomborg 2012: 424)
Ha! Here it is! P. P. Blanco (2010) insists on the concept of "contract", which is in some sort of etymological or at least theoretical connection with the concept of "contact". I had a hard time understanding what she meant, but if it's anything like this then I finally get it.
The comment is evidence that a participant has visited the blog, and in this way, the act of commenting has a highly phatic function regardless of the content of the comment; that is, it marks social presence and by this means confirms the existence of a social relationship between the commentator and the author. The daily exchange of comments by some of the participants in Huskenbloggen develops and strengthens this relationship over time. Because the most active participants in Huskenbloggen visit and comment on each other's blogs on a daily basis, they gradually develop personal relationships and group cohesion. The continuous social presence thus functions as a phatic marker enabling participants to create and maintain rather than close relationships in a networked space, the blogosphere, which in principle is not very personal. (Lomborg 2012: 425)
In other words, the comment expresses a willingness to communicate, and further communication will ideally reinforce this willingness.
An examination of the thematic orientations of Huskenbloggen reveals the significance of the phatic dimension. Especially in the commenting sections, there is very little topical development and digression in the blog conversation, with participants often merely confirming viewpoints and experiences that have been articulated in the blog post. (Lomborg 2012: 425-426)
Always this emphasis on affirmation and consent. Is there a difference between affirming and confirming? With regard to viewpoints, this reinforces the Relevance Theory facet of mutual manifestness. Experience on the other hand likens it to Ruesch's communization.
What role does the broader generic configuration of blogs play in connection with the blogging self? The analysis of Huskenbloggen indicates that personal blogs are caught in an inherent tension between, on the one hand, building and maintaining personal relationships by getting to know interaction partners and, on the other, doing this in a manner that is respectful of common interest and of the fact that blogs are publicly accessible to anyone who cares to read them (Kendall 2006 Viégas 2005). Describing this tension from a privacy and information ethics perspective, Strikwerda (2011) considers it a dialectic of the protection of information privacy and the desire to participate. Along these same lines, Miller (2008) has argued that sharing intimate thoughts through self-disclosure is necessary for developing personal relationships. This raises important questions about the negotiated norms for appropriate self-disclosure in blogs and about how bloggers can navigate the tension between public and private. (Lomborg 2012: 430)
In other words, there's a tension between social techniques and communization. But I am a bit concerned because Vincent Miller's (2008) paper is the only one in the references that's recognizably about phatics. No Malinowski, no Jakobson, not even La Barre, who perhaps would have been useful in this context (I think I may have to review these papers that I deem having missed out on La Barre, and rectify the situation by considering the points of convergences that made me think that they could have used La Barre). But perhaps these were just not quote-, note-, or citation-worthy for this author? Even Simmel's theory is treated very lightly.
In short, the phatic elements are central to the conversation, and I would like to suggest that phatic communication may in fact be a subtle way to nurture personal relationships in public. (Lomborg 2012: 431)
Yup, that's pretty much the gist of La Barre's approach to phatic communication.
The function of the phatic communication in Huskenbloggen may be fruitfully explored through Simmel's concept of sociability because it reflects a togetherness that is somewhere in between public and private. Simmel defines and dissects the concept of sociability as driven by people's mundane conversations. Sociability is upheld and maintained through conversational activities and reciprocity (Simmel 1971: 132-137), and it is neither about achieving some common goal nor centred around one specific topic (Simmel 1971: 130). Fundamentally, sociability is about being together by keeping a conversation alive - a line with phatic communication as such. (Lomborg 2012: 431)
To be precise, phatic communion is verbal togetherness. In that sense all the conditions for phatic communion are fulfilled - people blog, other people comment, and they feel togetherness through the exchange of verbal signs.
Sociability is togetherness freed from the seriousness and friction of life and 'it is tactless to bring in personal humour, good or ill, excitement and depression, the light and shadow of one's inner life' to the conversation (Simmel 1971: 131). In other words, sociability means highlighting similarities and deemphasising individuality in conversation by 'hiding' intimate and potentially uncomfortable topics because serious discussion disturbs and threatens the continuity of conversation (Simmel 1971: 130-136). (Lomborg 2012: 431)
In one instance Morris's communization is opposed to defamiliarization. In communization we highlight similarities (common viewpoints and experiences), and hide differences that make us different. (Curiously, that last phrase came out sounding like Bateson's definition of information as a difference that makes a difference, which is poetically related to current topic, since phaticity is as if opposed to information (the cognitive, referential, or ideational function), so in the end it may be possible to construct a poetic theory of phaticity that likens it to something like similarity that makes a similarity - poetic, because it doesn't make sense.) / Also, that uncomfortable topics can disturb and threaten continuity of conversation echoes Malinowski's remark [9.3 in paraphrase project] that "Indeed there need not or perhaps even there must not be anything to communicate."

Slotta, James 2015. Phatic Rituals of the Liberal Democratic Polity: Hearing Voices in the Hearings of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. Comparative Studies in Society and History 57(1): 130-160.

But like truth commissions elsewhere, those in Canada and Australia are usefully viewed as attempts to transform social and political relations in the "consolidated" democracies of settler states, as rituals that exhibit a transformation of the body politic and delineate new terms in which the state and its citizens relate to one another. But what sorts of transformations do truth and reconciliation rituals in settler states work to bring about? (Slotta 2015: 131)
So these "truth commissions" are phatic rituals?
My argument, in brief, is that these rituals aim to establish a form of communicative contact - a kind of phatic communion (Malinowski 1923) - among citicenz and agents of the state that realizes liberal and democratic ideals of communication. Participants in and commentators on these rituals pay considerable attention to what Roman Jakobson (1960) dubbed the phatic function of speech, its capacity to establish communicative contact between speakers and hearers, citizens and state, indigenous people and settler-dominated polity. As phatic rituals, truth and reconciliation hearings are framed as opening a channel of communication between the marginalized, the state, and other citizens where there was none before. (Slotta 2015: 131)
Although both big players are mentioned the understanding of phaticity in this paper seems rather limited. The "establishment" of communicative contact is taken as its primary modus operandi. Consequently, it makes "greeting" into a metaphor for phaticity the study of inter-group communication.
Looking beyond the use of language in its representational capacity, Roman Jakobson took up Malinowski's term "phatic" to label "messages primarily serving to establish, to prolong, or to discontinue communication, to check whether the channel works ('Hello, do you hear me?'), to attract the attention of the interlocutor or to confirm his continued attention" (1960: 355). In general, the phatic function encompasses all manner of communicative contact between speaker and hearer. I do not mean to suggest by my use of this term that these rituals are solely phatic and that language functioning in representative, expressive, or any other capacity is irrelevant. I use this term merely to highlight this less discussed facet of truth and reconciliation processes. (Slotta 2015: 131; fn. 1)
False. It is more often than not interpreted as "encompassing all manner of communicative contact" but the original conception clearly reads that contact is among the "factors inalienably involved in verbal communication", that "An outline of these functions demands a concise survey of the constitutive factors in any speech event, in any act of verbal communication, and that Jakobson is motivated by the insight that "Language must be investigated in all the variety of its functions." In the end, Jakobson outlined "The cardinal functions of language", "the six basic functions of verbal communication" and "the assemblage and reversible hierarchy of diverse concurrent verbal functions and operations". To say that the phatic function - a function of verbal communication by its very etymology (phatic meaning "speech" in Greek) - encompasses all manner of communicative contacts is to engage in wishful thinking, willful blindness toward terminology, or, you know, to partake in a long tradition that doesn't care to look into what the word actually means. Nevertheless, due to the term's easily intuitable meaning, it's likely that the author will end up using it correctly despite this mischaracterisation. (And not everyone's a stickler for (academic) authority as me, and the paper may be interesting in its own right.)
Over and above their effort to arrive at the historical truth concerning the relocation and its effects on the Inuit relocatees, the Royal Commission framed its activities as a transformation of communicative relations within the body politic, ritually enacted in the truth and reconciliation process itself. More specifically, the Commission presented the process as giving the relocatees "a meaningful opportunity to tell their full story" (RCAP 1994: 4) after decades of being silenced and ignored, as a historical transformation in which illiberal communicative relations attributed to settler colonial pasts (e.g., being silenced or ignored by the state) give way through the truth and reconciliation process itself to a form of communicative contact characteristic of a more liberal democratic present. (Slotta 2015: 132)
Being silenced and ignored is, in truth, the opposite of phaticity, the prime characteristics of which are vocalization and attention. (Vocalization, at that, even pertains more literally to La Barre's phatic communication.)
This ritual of truth and reconciliation was presented as marking a break from a relatively illiberal past through the Commission's efforts to "liberate" the voices of indigenous peoples and create the conditions necessary for a liberal democratic form of phatic communion involving citizens and state alike. (Slotta 2015: 132)
A political verbal togetherness.
The growing importance of communication is discussions of liberal democratic theory has mirrored increasing concerns about and attention to communication in liberal multicultural states, where communicative forums other than voting booths and opinion polls are seen as necessary to ensure that the "voices" of minority groups are heard. (Slotta 2015: 136)
This really makes me think that Estonia, with its 24% ethnic Russian population, should have a truth commission for them. Right now, as much as I can ascertain, they feel "invisible" in Estonian society. But since the purpose of so-called "truth commissions" is to find out "what really happened" during an event (such as the High Arctic Relocation controversy dealt with here, it would have to give voice to older generation of Russians who came here during the Soviet times, and that could be imposing, since Estonians may react to those people with "go back to where you came from" sentiments rather than acceptance. And I have a hard time imagining my Russian grandfather (who is now deceased) hearing that he must go back to where he came from, when the small village he came from was razed to the ground with nothing left but cornerstones amid a forest.
Like many other cases involving indigenous people and other minority groups, a central concern in the High Arctic Relocation controversy was voice. "Giving voice" to the voiceless, "hearing the voice" of the silenced - these have become important political, historiographic, and juridical activities in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Voice as a property of individuals and collectives can be silenced or heard, given, appropriated or recuperated. Giving voice and hearing voices contrasts with the absence of voice, an undemocratic and illiberal communicative conditions (e.g., Couldry 2010; Schlozman, Verba, and Brady 2012). Voice is intimately connected with the principles of liberal democracy, government guided by the "voice of the people," which at the same time guarantees freedom of expression to "dissident voices." (Slotta 2015: 144)
These general remarks reinforce my idea of writing a phatic analysis of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four.
The modern bureaucratic archive (ideally) temporally and otherwise divorces the inscription of documents during the course of bureaucratic business from the reading of them in an archival reading room. At this distance, the reader becomes an over-hearer of an inscribed communicative event, unknown and unknowable to the participants in the interaction. This distance between inscription event and the reading event situates the reader in a way analogous to an observer in a laboratory experiment, whose presence does not interfere with the behavior of the objects being observed. (Slotta 2015: 146)
This would be an example of what Colin Cherry termed meta-channel: the channel of observation that does not interrupt the object-channel in any way.
The Royal Commission hearings provided the communicative infrastructure - "the bridge" - that realized liberal communicative ideals presented as having gone unfulfilled for too long. (Slotta 2015: 152)
Phatic infrastructure?
By "giving voice" to the relocatees - letting them speak freely and listening to what tehy had to say - the Commission brought into being what many saw as more liberal democratic communicative relations, relations in which "phatic communion" (Malinowski 1923) of citizens and state in communicative contact with one another was realized. In phatic rituals, "ties of union are created by a mere exchange of words" (ibid.: 478); here the relocatees spoke freely and equally and the state and other citizens listened. For supporters of the Commission's efforts, this communicative contact ritually admitted the relocatees into the communicative life of the polity, "the official record," from which they had been excluded for so long. (Slotta 2015: 152-153)
This paper was indeed a pleasurable read in its own right. But I have to take issue with the phatics of it yet again. It would appear that Slotta has either fundamentally mistaken, or, lets say, taken interpretive liberties with, the notion of phatic communion. But here, as with Jakobson above, he is making a common mistake. Well, not common, perhaps, because the specific instance is idiosyncratic, but the occurrence of reading something completely different out of Malinowski's text is frequenty. Here, I think, the unique innovation consists of confusing phatic communion with ritual handling of words, which Malinowski treats of in the same appendix. But this is really a problem with Malinowski's ambiguous style of writing that flows smoothly and doesn't make clear-cut distinctions between the topics he's discussing. And, after all, didn't Peace (2013) also treat phatic communion and "secular rituals" in the same breath?
At issue is the "phatic communion" of a polity, imagined and ritually manifested as a body of voices in open, equal, and free contact with one another and the state. As phatic rituals that realize liberal democratic ideals of communication, testimonial practices and truth and reconciliation hearings "give voice" to those who had been silenced. (Slotta 2015: 153)
This phrase is telling. It's a matter of levels, isn't it? Phatic communion was originally concocted for interpersonal or group level but here it is applied on the level of society, or, to use Slotta's expression, "multicultural polity".

Radovanovic, Danica and Massimo Ragnedda 2012. Small talk in the Digital Age: Making Sense of Phatic Posts. In: Rowe, Matthew; Milan Stankovic and Aba-Sah Dadzie (eds.), Proceedings of WWW'12 Workshop on 'Making Sense of Microposts', #MSM2012. Lyon, France, April 16, 2012. URL: http://ceur-ws.org/Vol-838/paper_18.pdf.

We reflect upon and present the most pervasive and relevant socio-communication functions of an online presence on microposts and social networks: the phatic communication function. Although some theorists such as Malinowski say these microposts have no practical information value, we argue that they have semantic and social value for the interlocutors, determined by socio-technological and cultural factors such as online presence and social awareness. (Radovanovic & Ragnedda 2012: 10)
I just gave James Slotta a talking-to for thinking that the phatic function of language pertains to all forms of communication. I'm fairly sure that Malinowski didn't treat of microposts. Rather, he aimed to delineate phatic communion from the communication ideas; or not even that, to treat the function of speech that explicitly does not contain any practical information value.
We investigate and offer new implications for emerging social and communication dynamics formed around microposts, what we call here "phatic posts". (Radovanovic & Ragnedda 2012: 10)
But if you argue that microposts do have practical information value then why do you proceed by calling them "phatic posts"?
We describe the socio-technological and communication dynamics that ingluence the formation of micro phatic posts. Living in an accelerating, interconnected world of information where the demand for instant updates and news is present here and now, different forms of communication dynamics are formed, referring to the socio-technological communication processes online. (Radovanovic & Ragnedda 2012: 10)
Why not online socio-technological communication processes?
Different SNS provide an expressive medium to share with others our feelings, needs, current status, or simple statements. Those simple and short statements can carry light information or low information such as "I'm eating a dark chocolate", or "listening to new album by Air", or just "life is beautiful". It can also provoke a communication: "anyone there?", "does anyone know...?", etc. (Radovanovic & Ragnedda 2012: 10)
So, affective media.
Although some theorists such as Malinowski say that phatic messages do not have a practical information value, we are arguing in this paper that they do have semantic and social value for the interlocutors, determined by socio-technological and cultural factors. (Radovanovic & Ragnedda 2012: 10)
Again, Malinowski does not operate with terms like "message" and "information", since he predated communication theory (I think these authors have Jakobson in mind, instead). But Malinowski does say that "Inquiries about health, comments on weather, affirmations of some supremely obvious state of things - all such are exchanged, not in order to inform" [2.2 in the paraphrase project].
In some social, linguistic, and semantic theories, phatic may indicate communication being mundane, information-less, without any value. (Radovanovic & Ragnedda 2012: 10-11)
"There are other uses of language which are not concerned with the communication of thoughts. The conversations which English people hold about the weather, for example, do not as a rule leave the participants any the wiser; only on rare occasions can information be said to have been exchanged. As far as communicating thought is concerned, they get nowhere; are they then quite pointless? No; a little reflection will show that this kind of use of language has great social value." (Abercrombie 1956: 2)
In this paper we are arguing that the origin of modern, social web micro posts (tweets, Facebook status updates, likes, pokes, geo-check-ins on Foursquare, Flickr comments, etc.) - which we call here "phatic posts" - have their origins in the human need for phatic communication, i.e., communication for social upkeep. The quality of the information being communicated has no practical value and is rather mundane and comes from Malinowski's concept of phatic communion. (Radovanovic & Ragnedda 2012: 11)
The phrasing in "and comes from Malinowski's concept" makes it seem causal, as if Malinowski is to blame for people communicating for social upkeep.
In particular phatic communion has three phatic functions: a social function to establish and maintain social connections; a communicative function to demonstrate that the channel of communication is open and present oneself as a potential communication partner; a validation and recognition function to indicate recognition of one's interlocutor as a potential communicative partner. To these three main functions, Philip Riley has added another three functions: to provide indexical information for social categorization (that is to signal different aspects of social identity); to negotiate the relationship, in particular relative status, roles and affectivity (which clearly could be seen operating if we look at the various forms of greetings and address that some individuals use according to his or her social or affective relationship with the interlocutor); to reinforce social structure (Riley 2007: 131-32). (Radovanovic & Ragnedda 2012: 11)
Riley, Philip 2007. Language, Culture and Identity: An Ethnolinguistic Perspective. London: Continuum. Let's try to deconstruct this list. (1) is Jakobson's first sentence on the phatic function; (2) is his second sentence; (3) sounds like Jakobson, but I'm sure he didn't actually say anything of the sort. I'll make this bold. I've met "acknowledgement" somewhere before, but this is generally new and promising. Riley's additional functions are essentially: (1) group identification, most likely following either Abercrombie or Laver; (2) something new that sounds a lot like Bateson's mu-function, but because it has "relative status" in it it may also originate from Laver and the British issue of social class; (3) also new, but easily conceptualizable in Talcott Parsons' systems theory, for example.
In particular in our discussion we are arguing about the phatic function of online communication in the context of this theoretical framework and we are going to discuss why the phatic function that tries to maintain contact with the receiver is important on SNS for maintaining and strengthening existing relationships. This is more evident in the case of Facebook where its primary purpose is to reestablish relationship lost in time, such as those between former classmates or older friends. (Radovanovic & Ragnedda 2012: 11)
This is true: Facebook began as a website for keeping track of mates on college campus (as far as I know). This aspect of "reconnecting" with lost family, friends and acquaintances is not one frequently treated in the "phatic technology" quarter.
The importance of phatic communication has already been recognized by software engineers defining protocols for use in messaging. Notably, the SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) and SIMPLE (Session Initiation Protocol for Instant Messaging and Presence Leveraging Extensions) protocols draw extensively on the idea of "presence" as a signal to networks of users that communication is possible and of the disposition of other users to communicate. (Radovanovic & Ragnedda 2012: 11)
This is indeed interesting. Above, Faucher (2013) said that sites "such as Facebook are heavily hodological in nature, which is to say that they operate according to preset pathways that delimit options for access and interaction" (Faucher 2013: 9). Here it would appear that instead of delimiting, in some ways they are also enabling access and interaction, even if it's such a minute thing as showing who is currently online and whether your chat partner has received your message and is currently writing a message (in Jakobson's technical treatment these small issues are quintessentially phatic, more so because these are metacommunicative linguistic messages, e.g. "online" and "X is writing a message").
To do this participants just write "nonsense", expressing their thoughts freely and making witty comments. This apparently "nonsense writing", has an intimate purpose, not so much in what has been written, but keeping in contact and reinforcing relationship. (Radovanovic & Ragnedda 2012: 11)
I think that if the thoughts they express and their witty comments make sense then we're not dealing with nonsense. Also, where do you get the impression that phaticity is about nonsense? The general impression going around is that of conventionality and phatic utterances being "formulaic" (Malinowski's own preferred word), not nonsense. Nonsense is really the absurd logical conclusion of desemantization, non-referentiality, or irrelevance, but the keyword here is absurd.
These practices have resulted in forming 'phatic media' (Miller 2008) in which communication without content has taken precedence. (Radovanovic & Ragnedda 2012: 11)
Media without substantive content.
Furthermore, one of the contemporary digital media scholars, Mizuko Ito, described the appearance of phatic communication processes among Japanese teens in "low-content text message" groups, whose purpose is simply to stay in contact with others. These mundane communication exchanges represent the kind of communication that arises among people who are overwhelmed with other forms of communication. For example, in Japanese culture, phatic function is called aizuchi. Aizuchi tweets are real time, continuous, two-sided communication where, if one drops out of the communication thread, the dynamics of the aizuchi is lost. Aizuchi also involves very short expressions of approval or disapproval and expressions and connotations of someone's online presence. Aizuchi has a social function: to keep connectedness with others. The stage of connectedness is always characterized by a very high degree of alertness. we have conducted a set of inteviews, including an interview with Takashi Ota, Japanese software developer and Wikimedian, in order to clarify aizuchi. One can assume aizuchi as a sign of the confirmation of presence: "I'm listening", "it's your turn", "I won't interrupt you" or "you're expected to keep talking". This is a typical effect when interlocutors use aizuchi during direct conversation or phane calls, but it may be applied to online conversations as well. When being used online, aizuchi "makes you think as if your counterpart is talking in front of you. It makes you feel we are connected." (Radovanovic & Ragnedda 2012: 11-12)
As far as I know, aizuchis are "short utterances roughly equivalent to English "uh huh" and "yeah" (Kita & Ide 2007: 1242), not a direct equivalent of "phatic function". What I appreciate in this is the phrase "a very high degree of alertness", because as far as I know, the rhythmic "pounding" of aizuchi indeed requires that. The idea that phatic communion arises when people are "overwhelmed" with other forms of communication is enticing, but it would necessitate some further substantiation.
Computer-mediated and mobile-mediated environments today provide the channel of communication to be open and to present oneself as a potential communication partner. (Radovanovic & Ragnedda 2012: 12)
If I ever write a "hodgepodge" article about various bric-a-brac I'd like to treat briefly the "contact information" we provide to websites, or put up on our homepages. I'm especially interested in a relic, long-abandoned HTML tag, <address>, that you can find in the source codes of homepages for old IT-gurus. It's such an odd thing, and unsurprisingly unsupported in current version of HTML, but it does fall into the category of phatic signs that enable(d) one to present oneself as a potential communication partner.
Communicative dynamics established with the web 2.0 paradigm shift and the development of microblogging culture and the usage of social media and SNS using mobile communication, encouraged users to practice in everyday life what we call here a phatic display of connected presence. This phatic display of a connected presence is expressed through microposts, comments, short messages, leet-speak, tweets, status updates, Facebook social add-ons, and embedded applications. (Radovanovic & Ragnedda 2012: 12)
A worthwhile concept. Jakobson's definition contains the phrase "to attract the attention", and Ruesch has a very similar wording: "Attracting, showing off, or displaying reflects all those actions which imply a signaling for attention" (Ruesch 1972[1953a]: 66) So you could very well also use the expression "showing off" when treating these phenomena.
Human relationships depend more and more on new technologies, such as computers, mobile phones and, most relevantly here, on their social network identities. These enable us to interact with others and human relationships in new interconnected virtual habitats become increasingly dependant on these objects. This "dependency" creates a new sociability pattern of being constantly online and present and of relationships becoming a fluid ever-changing continuum. (Radovanovic & Ragnedda 2012: 12)
The effects of phatic technological habituation.
Phatic posts potentially denote a lot more substance and weight to them than the content itself suggests. (Radovanovic & Ragnedda 2012: 12)
Not denote. The current fashion in Relevance Theory is imply.
Coming back to the phatic function postulated by Jakobson we can add a new function particularly present, on the social networks: conflict avoiding. On Facebook the two most popular forms of phatic communication on which we want to focus - besides status updates - are the concept of like and poke. This last form seems very interesting because Facebook has a "Like" button and not an "I don't like" button. This is because it seems to be easier to maintain balance in a community if one establishes relationships of mutual conformistic harmony with other people and it could create a conflictual relationship, reducing interaction (someone could be unfriended) and reducing the total number of the users. (Radovanovic & Ragnedda 2012: 12)
Faucher wrote about this at length. But I'm not sure if it's a new function. After all, Malinowski wrote that phatic communion has "Always the same emphasis on affirmation and consent, mixed perhaps with an incidental disagreement which creates the bonds of antipathy." (p. 314-315) And while Facebook does lack a "dislike" button, the comment section is still a ground for incidental disagreements and creating "bonds of antipathy". This, of course, is an under-theorized aspect, and perhaps Facebook is indeed a good source for empirical material to flesh it out.
There are numerous possible meanings and interpretations behind the poke and in the context of social networking technologies tehy can include: a) showing romantic interest for the other; (b) a high visibility, low pressure way of getting attention; c) a lightweight interaction. (Radovanovic & Ragnedda 2012: 13)
Good phrase. "Lightweight" is an idiom that I've not met in phatic studies. It's just as surprising and obvious as the idiom "wallflower" (I had to read about phatic architecture to discover such a commonplace word and realize that it could have a place in discourse on phatics).
c) the third type of phatic posts indicates a secret language or an internal language especially between teens. Teens and young adults use a lot of phatic when communicating among themselves. They use it to protect their privacy and publicly express themselves through these short messages and posts - of which only they know the meaning - so that way they keep adults from their world. danah boyd (2010) wrote on this - decoding the youth and their "secret" language. (Radovanovic & Ragnedda 2012: 13)
Nice, an actual study of "private signs", and in relation with phatics! boyd, danah. 2010. Living Life in Public: Why American Teens Choose Publicity over Privacy. AOIR 2010. Gothenburg, Sweden, October 23. URL: http://www.danah.org/papers/talks/2010/AOIR2010.html

Whiteley, W. H. 1966. Social Anthropology, Meaning and Linguistics. Man 1(2): 139-157.

At the outside I should like to make clear what I intend to discuss under this rather comprehensive title, and I cannot do better than refer backt o Lévi-Strauss's remarks to the Conference of Anthropologists and Linguists at Bloomington in 1952. Commenting on the fact that this was perhaps the first occasion when anthropologists and linguists had come together specifically to discuss possible areas of common interests, Lévi-Strauss (1963) observed that three levels of investigation had to be distinguished: possible relations between a language and a culture; between langugae and culture; and beet linguistics as a scientific discipline and anthropology. (Whiteley 1966: 139)
This was the very same conference that Roman Jakobson attended and wrote a concluding report for. (I may have to re-read it soon, at least before writing my next paper about Jakobson's phatics.) Levi-Strauss is as insightful as always. I think similar concerns were expressed by Jakobson as well, perhaps in the same report. The difference, if I'm not mistaken, consists in the understanding that the relation of a specific language to a specific culture can be investigated empirically while the relation between language and culture as such are theoretical. And the third level, of course, is metatheoretical.
Within this frame of reference my purpose is both historical and programmatic. I acknowledge that there had been a plethora of programmatic articles in recent years; my only excuse for yet another is that I have tried to present a somewhat fuller picture than is customary. I wish to consider the ways in which some anthropologists - largely British - have traditionally viewed the language of the communities they studied, how their views have been modified and extended during the last twenty years, and how further, perhaps more fruitful, development might proceed. (Whiteley 1966: 139)
My purposes are similar. We should emulate this passage when we write our joint paper on phatic studies with Joe.
What I wish to stress is rather that when linguists wish to look at problems of meaning, then they have to reckon with the essentially social fact of language and look at the social context; when anthropologists wish to look at meaning, they must recognise that the social context in which a term occurs is related in more or less interesting ways to sets of linguistic contexts. (Whiteley 1966: 139-140)
Quite programmatic indeed. Similar concerns should be raised with regard to so-called "meta-phatics", as when a linguistic category of social behaviour, such as aizuchi. Care must be taken to contextualize its cultural belonging.
A second major problem concerns the use of translation. The field worker learns to use terms for which there is no English equivalent but which are nevertheless extremely important sociologically. Since Malinowski the problem had been clearly recognised, but solutions have not often been satisfactory, partly because of the difficulty of delimiting the field over which the term is used. It is not enough, for example, to append a list of terms used in a given ceremony; these have no 'meaning' unless they can also be plotted within a given set of linguistic contexts. (Whiteley 1966: 140)
This is the import of Malinowski's context of situation (even in the famous appendix). The authors of the previous paper insisted in the importance of this insight in their own work but failed to elaborate further.
Firstly, the linguist, like his colleagues in others of the social scientists, is concerned, in making a linguistic description, with the abstraction of patterns from his data. To the extent that a large number of patterns are readily discernible, the linguist is spurred on to try and achieve an exhaustive patterning; to the extent that language is constantly in use and subject to variations of many different kinds, so the patterns abstracted tend to be non-congruent with language performance. (Whiteley 1966: 141)
This is so general that it really applies on my own work of meta-analysis. What else am I doing by reading through all these phatic studies than looking to abstract patterns, common misunderstandings that may be clarified as well as points of convergences that may allow generalization.
It is not enough simply to be able to generate grammatical sentences, one must also be able to say in what situations they are uttered. (Whiteley 1966: 141)
This, for example, is a common pitfall in phatic studies, especially the more theoretical ones. Despite the lip service paid to context of situation and whatnot, more often than not these considerations come secondary to the semantic problems - emphasizing that phaticity is "meaningless" in some way and then attempt to rectify the situation be rescuing phaticity from meaninglessness by vaguely raising its profile.
It also shares the view, stated recently by Basil Bernstein (1964), of social structure as a kind of filter between 'language' and 'speech', though it seems to be important to recognize that a given social structure comprises, as it were, a variable number of filter elements which may select 'speech systems or linguistic codes'. Bernstein's recognition of the speech system as a 'consequnece of the term of the social relationship' (56) seems particularly worthy of emphasis. (Whiteley 1966: 141)
This is good stuff. From the previous paper, one of Riley's additional "phatic functions" was "to reinforce social structure". It may be possible that our phatic routines really do uphold the status quo, as was also Miller's (2015) latest concern, although on a different level or dimension.
If one concentrates on the social group, which may be a kinship group (family, lineage group), recreational group (youth club, 'ton-up' boys, sports club, bird-fanciers), occupational group (legal profession, football team, trophical fish breeders, booksellers, etc.) or generational (age-groups, teenagers, infants), then attention must also be given to the concepts occurring therein and the social contexts in which they occur. (Whiteley 1966: 142)
Good advice. As far as I can tell, this may be the kind of work Blanco is currently engaged in (with regard to "family").
Writing at a time when the function of language was widely conceived in terms of its capacity to convey thought, Malinowski was quickly made aware, in his observations on fishing, trading and gardening, of the importance of language as 'a mode of social action rather than a mere reflection of thought' (1923: 247). He was also much impressed by the use of language in 'free, aimless, social intercourse' and suggested for this the term 'phatic communion', by which he wished to stress the establishment and maintenance of social ties by a set of verbal conventions. While such views served as a valuable corrective to current views of language, and quickly became part of a new orthodoxy, it is his view of meaning, derived from the use of ethnographic texts, which is perhaps of greater interest, though he was by no means the first to make use of texts in this way. (Whiteley 1966: 144)
On the one hand, Whiteley is mistaking Malinowski for Jakobson: although the latter did use the word "establishment", he did not use the more technical term, "maintenance", which at that time probably pertained to housekeeping. On the other hand he is right in that "phatic communion" became a new orthodoxy, which for a long time (several decades) was not modified in any significant way (perhaps not even applied - the mentions I have been able to dig up are just that, mentions).
It was clear to Malinowski that such terms and expressions which relate to ceremonies, ritual, social institutions and beliefs could not be translated by some hazarded equivalent but needed to be described by reference to the total social context in which they occurred; thus 'Exactly as in the reality of spoken or written languages, a word without linguistic context is a mere figment and stands for nothing by itself, so in the reality of a spoken living tongue, the utterance has no meaning except in the context of situation' (1923: 240). This illuminating concept was never developed fully by Malinowski but it was taken over and developed by his contemporary in London, the late J. R. Firth, who incorporated it into his own contextual theory of meaning. In this theory the meaning of a given form is its function in a given context, which may be stated at various levels, from the phonological and grammatical up to the semantic, and it is at this level that the context of situation is important. But the concept, if illuminating, has proved extremely elusive, for neither Firth nor his pupils have yet provided any detailed study of any particular context of situation; all regard as a truism what has yet to be systematically demonstrated, the importance of a context of situation, intuitively perceived as real but not yet clearly delimited. (Whiteley 1966: 144)
Isn't the latter part (a truism yet to be systematically demonstrated) also the case with phatic communion? In any case, I was not aware that Firth was a contemporary of his and developed his ideas further (apparently he even wrote a paper "[...] with reference to Malinowski's views"). More reason to look into this man's work.
Lévi-Strauss, for example, in an article in the forties (1963: ch. 2), [...] rejected too slavish a transposition of these methods as leading to a too 'complex' and 'difficult to interpret' model, and suggested instead that one should recognise two different modes of reality; 'systems of terminology' and 'systems of attitudes'. (Whiteley 1966: 148)
I'm holding on to these apples.
Goodenough starts off by asking what one needs to know to be able to say that A is B's cousin, to know, in fact, the meaning of such a remark. Meaning is understood here as signification rather than connotation, and the 'significata' of a term are those abstracted elements without which the term cannot occur, its differentiating features, in fact, that are abstracted by the investigator as being in some way essential to it. Connotata, by contrast, are optional, possible elements. Significata can be obtained through an informant 'asked to give statement of fact according to his understanding and usage'; connotata require that the investigator be exposed to social context and are in any case much more difficult to handle. (Whiteley 1966: 148)
Note 25: "Following Morris (1946). Note also that the terms 'denotata' are used for the referents of a term, and 'designatum' for the class of such denotata." (p. 154). Perhaps I should consider the significata and connotata of "phatic"? There certainly is basis for it, seeing as so many researchers choose to "read into it" a lot more than is necessary.
Truk kinship requires two paradigms; one with the common characteristic of 'seniority of generation', the other 'membership in matrilineal groups'. (Whiteley 1966: 149)
Fuck it. I'm also holding on to this.
At the same time as Goodenough and Lounsbury published their findings on kinship terminology, work was proceeding in other fields, notably colour terminology and folk medicine, areas marked as much by their comparative accessibility as by their disposition to terminological systems. (Whiteley 1966: 149)
This is also the situation within "phatic studies". There have been more papers published on the subject in 2015 than I could have imagine when embarking on this journey. And the work is proceeding, sadly not in any single field but a whole host of fields, some perhaps blissfully unaware that work on phatics is proceeding with such a rush lately. And almost all of them have been infected by Phatica, which is what we call the demon of terminological invention that first actuated Malinowski to coin phatic communion. The list of phatic this and that (phaticisms?) is virtually endless.
In the course of some concluding remarks to an inter-disciplinary conference on language and style in Indiana in 1958, Roman Jakobson made the following comment, 'No doubt, for any speech community, for any speaker, there exists a unity of lanugage, but this overall code represents a system of interconnected sub-codes; each language encompasses several concurrent patterns which are each characterized by a different function' (1960). Such functions may be described by reference to their inclination towards a particular factor of a speech event. Any such event comprises an addresser sending a message to an addressee. The message requires a context which can be referred to and spoken by the addresse, and it is at least capable of verbalisation; a code which is at lealst partially common to both parties; and a contact by which connexion may be established and maintained. Functions which inclune towards these factors can be labelled respectively emotive, poetic, conative, referential, metalingual and phatic. (Whiteley 1966: 151)
Oh my god. This is the umpteenth time I've read this sentence from Jakobson's "Linguistics and Poetics" (which I've even re-typed in full length), but the first time that I realize what it really means: when Jakobson talks about subcodes, i.e. the subsystems of language, and permanent dynamic synchrony, he is really talking about the hierarchy of linguistic functions. Oh my god. This means, oh god, this means that he did stick to the formalist idea of distinct types of languages within a single language, i.e. poetic language, expressive language, etc., to the bitter end! And no-one noticed? Holy fucking shit. I'll have to deal with this, I have to write about this! I - finally - have a reason to take up permanent dynamic synchrony! ---------- Also, which now feels completely irrelevant, Note 35 reads: "Hymes (1962) divides this into 'topic' and 'setting' with 'referential' and 'contextual' functions. Jakobson's 'phatic' function is re-labelled 'contact'." (p. 154)
In an early essay Hymes (1962) took up the general question of the 'ethnographic patterning of the uses of speech in a community' with particular reference to the development of a structural semantics, and recalled Jakobson's earlier division of approaches into those that document the occurrence of an item in all its contexts, and those which locate the item in a set or frame which can occur in specific contexts and which lead to the characterisation of the item in terms of its substitutability with other items. (Whiteley 1966: 152)
A pretty long-winded way to put the aspects of selection and combination.

Kunreuther, Laura 2006. Technologies of the Voice: FM Radio, Telephone, and the Nepali Diaspora in Kathmandu. Cultural Anthropology 21(3): 323-353.

On October 21, 2005, Nepali government officials attacked Kantipur FM, one of the oldest and largest commercial FM radio stations in Kathmandu. Their mission was to seize satellite equipment that enabled the station to broadcast programs outside the Kathmandu Valley. This seizure was necessary, the Ministry of Information and Communication declared, because Kantipur FM refused to comply with a new government ordinance that forbade the broadcast of news about opposition to the royal regime. (Kunreuther 2006: 323)
Before reading Slotta (2015) I would have had very few means to conceptualize "technological phatic" speech or Technologies of the Voice. In my meta-analysis of phatics I outline several "orders of phatics". This paper and Slotta's might represent a separate order, where the focus is on the nation-state.
Perhaps the most striking aspect of this coup was that the king cut all technological communication outside the valley and overseas for a period of several days. (Kunreuther 2006: 323)
Similar issues plague the so-called "phatic technologies", i.e. when Turkish and Egyptan governments blocked some social media sites (youtube, twitter, facebook).
To protest the government's action, journalists and media personnel gathered together in Kathmandu, wearing black cloths around their mouths to signify their stifled voices (see photo on cover). (Kunreuther 2006: 324)
I think I've seen American college students do something similar, but, you know, for an imaginary cause.
Indeed, over the past 15 years, the figure of voice has been especially invoked in discussions about the promises of democracy and transparent government. At the same time, in much of the talk radio programming produced on FM stations, voice is viewed as a sign of emotional directness, authenticity, and immediacy. These two formations of voice, I argue, are mutually constitutive. Sentimental discourse about the voice reiterates modern neoliberal discourse about democracy and is central to the formation of a Nepali diaspora. (Kunreuther 2006: 324)
15 years is an understatement. During the Soviet times, in Estonia and other Eastern Bloc countries, there was a radio station called Ameerika Hääl ("American Voice") that broadcast news from the Western side, i.e. news undistorted by Soviet ideology of propaganda. It was certainly a propaganda of its own, but it was also figuratively the voice of democracy.
As Maoist wage a civil war against the state and many Nepalis are deeply dismayed by the gevernment, particularly after the February 1 coup, and after the economy has plummeted over the past decade, technologies of the voice both aggravate and alleviate Nepali dreams of contact across great distances. Fantasies of escaping the current war and of earning enough money to support a middle-class life in Nepal are constantly belied by stories about the difficult and sometimes horrific conditions of work abroad. This contradiction produces anxieties that loom large, making the material and symbolic presence of Nepali diasporas increasingly important to urban sociality in Kathmandu. (Kunreuther 2006: 325)
"In Japanese social life today, people want to be related to each other, pointed-to each other, but not at any cost; my friend would still rather not be duped. Rather, they desire a specific way of being related, even while this desire is clouded by a sense of resignation. For they are aware that the dream of authentic dying and living, life's "worth," might have all alongbeen just that, a dream, "fading" at the unending end of Japan's long postwar (Mathews 1996)." (Nozawa 2015: 380) - The concerns are perhaps slightly different, or based on different grounds, but find expression in similar figures.
Programs on FM radio such as Rumpum Connection interpellate a Nepali diaspora among urban subjects, creating discursive forms through which they become recognized by others as well as by themselves. "Interpellation is an address that regularly misses its mark," writes Judith Butler, expanding on Louis Althusser's notion of interpellation. "The mark interpellation makes is not descriptive, but inaugurative. It seeks to introduce a reality rather than report an existing one; it accomplishes this introduction through citation of existing convention" (Butler 1997: 33; emphasis mine). (Kunreuther 2006: 325)
From Butler's Excitable Speech (1997), which I've read a while ago but which I should maybe re-read after reading Austin? In any case, this is very similar to Bruno Latour's political speech ("What if we Talked Politics a Little?", 2003), how it enunciates the existence of groups rather than pertaining to the 'reality' of 'social relations'.
This approach focuses on how other media such as the telephone, letters, and email become incorporated within FM programs. Conversations on Rumpum Connection are replete with references to potential telephone calls as well as to photos, emails, or letters. The excess of discourse about technology I refer to as "technological phatic" speech. As with other forms of phatic speech, such references to past or future communications do not convey any information but simply reiterate the strange fact that people seem to "connect" through technology. (Kunreuther 2006: 326)
What is meant by phaticity in this context is very similar to what is treated under the name "metacommunication" in the Tartu school of semiotics, which is markedly different from the classical Ruesch-Batesonian definition of metacommunication that pertains to simultaneity of connection between channels or mediums, rather than on references to past or future communications. What makes this approach somewhat cryptic in the overall scheme of things in phatic studies is that phatic technology is a term that was coined about the same time (Vetere et al. 2005) but in a different discipline (information technology), so it'll be a bit tricky to separate it clearly from "technological phatic" speech, which pertains more to meta-phatics than anything (i.e. discourse about connection in general, rather than about a particular connection).
The voice is a key aspect of technological mediation that shapes fantasies of presence projected by the radio and phone. There are several distinct understandings of the voice often simultaneously at work in the ethnographic examples presented here that are helpful to identify for analytic purposes. Each modality of voice raises specific questions about the kind of presence being produced. How, for example, does the mediated voice of the telephone and radio become the medium for producing affective relations, subjects, and diverse temporalities? How do these technologies of the voice configure a contemporary urban sociality in Kathmandu that centers on Nepali living abroad? (Kunreuther 2006: 326)
Useful for writing about affective media for Blanco's upcoming special edition of Networking Knowledge.
Such technologies do not require a hearing subjec to record sound and therefore record not only the symbolic, meaningful sound of language but also intrusions of meaningless noise, such as the hissing of the machine. Technology thus produces both the voice and the originary quality of the voice that appears to precede its technological recording. Ironically then, the discourse about transparency or the immediacy of the voice emerges as an aftereffect of technological recording. (Kunreuther 2006: 327)
For the article I'm currently writing I'm considering including various bric-a-brac with a phatic dimension. These include, thus far, the concepts of "wallflower" and "lightweight" conversation, as well as more technological items of curiosity, such as the outdated <ADDRESS> tag in old HTML, and perhaps even - why I'm mentioning this - a short phatic analysis of dial-up tones.
At noon on Saturdays, a day when most Nepalys are at home, Anamika makes a series of conference calls from the Kantipur FM studio. These calls ostensibly "connect" Kathmandu residents with their friends or families abroad. Yet Rumpum Connection does not in fact make a connection between disparate parties, as its name suggests. Instead, the very notion of "connection" constructs the subjects of "urban Nepali" and "Nepali diaspora" that come into being through the show. They become social categories through which callers and listeners recognize others as well as themselves. (Kunreuther 2006: 329)
That's a pretty cool idea in itself, given that most local residents probably don't have all that many means to communicate with friends and families abroad.
The telephone conversations on Rumpum Connection, for example, generate a temporality of the simultaneous, as well as affective, connection thorugh which urban Nepalis and the Nepali diaspora converse and appear present to one another. Technologies of voice also obscure this process and project a fantasy of presence and immediacy that enable newly constituted subjects to imagine themselves "connecting" through the radio and the telephone. (Kunreuther 2006: 320)
Almost simultaneously, Licoppe and Smoreda (2005) described a new pattern of "connected presence" emerging due to telephone technologies, which others (Miller 2008) quickly generalized to include online social media environments.
The idea for Rumpum Connection emerged from transnational flows of people and language. It was conceived of by the only British manager of Kantipur FM after he heard a similar program broadcast in London. Anamika explained that, initially, she and a young man were chosen to cohost the program because they could understand and speak good English. After a year, she became the sole host. "You don't know if the person who answers the phone will speak Nepali," Anamika told me in a mix of Nepali and English, typical of most young, educated Nepalis. "I need to be able to speak English so I can reach the Nepalis abroad." (Kunreuther 2006: 331)
These "transnational flows of people and language" throw Jakobson's concept of the radius of communication out of whack. Linguistic contact no longer follows the logic of areas and travel routes. The flows are much more complex these days. I'll need to take this into consideration when I treat the "radius" concept at length. Also, the mixing of native language with Estonian is also characteristic of Estonian youth who speak "Estonglish".
The probram brings forth the category of Nepaliness and a Nepali voice, at the same time as it implies the need for radio and telephone to materialize these social relations. The national premise of the program suggests that it might be considered a quintessential example of long-distance nationalism (Anderson 1998; Schiller and Fouron 2001). (Kunreuther 2006: 331)
This would be really interesting to study with regard to Estonianness in a few decades time. The relevant addition here being that Estonian e-governance makes it possible to conduct your everyday business while being physically abroad (for example, you could be somewhere across the globe but still vote in municipal elections). Not to mention the e-residency program that enables foreigners to become "virtual Estonians". In other words, there is an unparalleled phatic infrastructure in place. (Maybe I should include the e-residency program in the phatic bric-a-brac and analyze its phaticity?)
Through interpellation, Meena emerges as a subject who is Nepali and a member of a particular family, yet also, as part of the diaspora, a subject who is simultaneously excluded from these social worlds. In naming and locating these silent listeners, callers bring forth and constitute an invisible public as really there. This process establishes a relationship between the diaspora and urban Nepalis that then becomes a vital part of the urban publics created through FM radio. (Kunreuther 2006: 333)
In other words, the silent listeners constitute the communication system in the meta-channel, having awareness but not influence. (Because they are also named and addressed they are also part of the para-channel, i.e. the relational context of the communication system, but since para-channel is my own terminological invention I won't pursue it further at this time.)
The very notion of reality and authentic emotion that this woman describes strikingly depends on appropriate representation and the prosodic features of a voice that will adequately convey "a real life story." In this and many other letters, listeners describe the material and sensuous quality of the voice as the raison d'être of their listening, the siron call that convinces them to participate in such programs. "The voice" here comes to stand not for direct political participation and good governance but rather for a quality of social connection and emotional directness associated with FM radio. (Kunreuther 2006: 334)
This is where La Barre's phatic communication and Lemon's phatic qualia meet. Must consider for a phatic approach to affective media.
Many listeners describe their enchantment with a radio voice as having the power to channel emotions that the listeners themselves cannot express in words. Radio hosts encourage their listeners to "speak your minds and hearts," and fan letters repeat such messages nearly verbatim. (Kunreuther 2006: 334)
Metaphorization of the channel. I should perhaps consider the connotata of "channeling" as a verb that has intrinsic phaticness attached to its uses in phatic studies.
Perhaps the failure of complete simultaneity is one reason why so many conversations on Rumpum Connection center almost exclusively on the various media - letters, emails, telephone calls - through which the speakers imagine they will connect or have connected. Roman Jakobson's analysis of the six functions of speech helps us understand the social importance of immediacy and why listeners' enchantment with the medium itself appears so often in their conversations on FM radio. To relay a message over the radio or in any conversation, a speaker must convey a referent and a context that the listener can grasp; together, they must share a lexical code, and they must be able to make contact through "a physical and psychological connection [that] [...] enables both of them to enter and stay in communication" (Jakobson 1987: 66). Speech that centers on this ability to make contact is what Jakobson, following Bronislaw Malinowski, refers to as the "phatic" function of language. Phrases such as "How are you?" or "You know?" are often used simply to prolong communication without exchanging any information (Jakobson 1987; Malinowski 1953). (Kunreuther 2006: 340)
Curiously, this is one of the very few papers that take Jakobson's functions to be "speech functions". Most just gloss over that fact. Because of this rarity it comes across as surprising that someone does indeed look at speech centered on contact as phatic.
This is a standard exchange on an FM call-in show:
Host: Hello, do you hear me?
Caller: Yes, I hear you. Hello.
H: Where are you calling from?
C: I'm calling from Baneswar.
H: And your name?
C: I'm Raju from Baneswar.
H: Okay, Rajuji, have you eaten rice?
C: Yes, I've eaten. And you?
H: Yes, I've eaten. And what would you like to say, Raju dai?
C: I like your program very much. And I would like to say hello to my sisters and friends. Okay, I'm putting [the phone] down.
H: Goodbye, a big thanks for calling.
This typical conversation functions primarily in the phatic mode. The actual information these two speakers share is minimal. Their exchange centers instead on checking whether the channel of communication is clear. Both host and caller repeat a common colloquial greting, "Have you eaten rice?" (Bhat khanubhyo?), which seems to ask for specific information but in fact is used to begin a conversation or simply establish contact between acquaintances passing on the street. It is inflected with a sense of familiarity and habitual meeting. Such conversations resemble the conversations frequently heard in the United States when people reach for their cell phones "just to say hello." By referring to the various channels of communication, phatic speech draws attention to the voice as a mediating tool of social relations. Such discourse becomes the link between technology and voice by highlighting, in a single phrase, the concurrent mediation of the two mediums (voice and radio). (Kunreuther 2006: 340-341)
Again, this is a bafflingly literal approach to the phatic function and even takes Jakobson's phone-related illustration seriously, which I in all honesty have not seen anywhere before. The bit about rice-eating-greeting is an interesting addition to the semantic analysis of greetings, which thus far includes Estonian orientation to health, Arabic orientation to Allah, and perhaps English orientation to "good" (Good evening, How are you doing, etc.). The sense of familiarity and habitual meeting reinforces Ruesch's communization.
On Rumpum Connection, the various mediums that course through any given conversation invokes the speakers' relation to Nepal and to the diaspora, for themselves as well as for the listening public. Conversations that usually begin with "Did you receive that email?" or "Have you spoken on the phone to so-and-so?" reiterate the fact that Nepalis in Kathmandu and abroad can and do seem to connect through technology, without directly referreng to the content of those messages. Such frequent references to various mediums of communication might be thought of as a form of "technological phatic" speech. The excess of phatic speech on Rumpum Connection reveals the mediating qualities of the voice and also becomes a poignant expression of intimacy. Using technological phatic speech, Rumpum callers draw attention to the media through which they communicate between Kathmandu and the diaspora as they construct a dialogue that is largely about contact itself. (Kunreuther 2006: 341)
It is curious that when someone does take Jakobson's phatic function seriously, the outcome is something that has to be renamed. I would not call it "technological phatic speech". Perhaps technology-oriented phatic speech would be better? The term phatic technologies really imposes a problem. I may have to write more extensively on this and look into how to ameliorate "references to communication technology" with phaticity. On the top of my head currently is an expression, contact-content, but I have no idea how to ground it in anything other than tying the referential and the phatic function together to accommodate technological phatic speech.
Like many FM radio hosts, Anamika herself has become a fetish of connection with a special power to facilitate connection between people living far away. Anamika told me that she frequently receives gifts - chocolate, perfume, jeans, bags, cards, knickknacks - from her listeners in Kathmandu and around the world. (Kunreuther 2006: 343)
In phatic terms, Anamika is a phatic expert (Lemon 2013).
Dreams of contact and the excess of phatic speech on FM radio programs both allay and express the contradiction between a desire to flee and the failed promises of the diaspora. More than this, it is in such moments of political and economic crisis that something normally concealed - the power of technology to create illusions of realness - is revealed through technological phatic speech. Unlike discourses that attempt to make a technological apparatus vanish so that the voice appears all the more real, this phatic discourse emphasizes the agency of technology involved in satisfying the seemingly antecedent desire for connection. In technological phatic speech, subject appears as individuals who exist prior to the broadcast or telephone call and whose needs and desires are met by the miraculous interventions of technology. (Kunreuther 2006: 344)
This, I think has profound implications. And before jumping on the medium is the message bandwagon (which is already full of people who half-understand the concept but nevertheless propagate it) I'd like to consider "the agency of technology" itself. For me, this is not an empty phrase, for we've philosophized with Joe about artificial intelligence and the future time when technology presents not only a means of communication but a partner in communication. There may come a time when the "channel" itself is a conscious party. So this is a lofty subject that demands more consideration of the role of technology, in interpersonal communication as well as society at large. On a procedural note, this paper was at first imposing with its length (33 pages is longer than the average) but proved to be not only a good read but a valuable resource, and its unique (overly traditional) take on the phatic function is in every way worthy of mention in my own work.

Hopkins, Kane 2014. The phatic nature of the online social sphere: Implications for public relations. PRism 11(2). URL: http://www.prismjournal.org/fileadmin/11_2/Hopkins.pdf.

This article considers the importance of phatic exchanges - a communication exchange that fulfils a social objective rather than imparting information - on social technologies, such as Facebook and Twitter. (Hopkins 2014: 1)
Some variations. There have been social function, social value, social goals, social role, etc. "Objective" is a first. And what here are called social technologies are called phatic technologies in phatic studies.
This article provides an overview and brief history of phatic communication, and the important role it plays in the cohesion of relationships among social media users. It draws on theories from the fields of social linguistics, computer-mediated communication and public relations to analyse the current practices of organisational social media use by public relations professionals. Specifically, the article considers the use of phatic communication in social media by public relations practitioners to manage organisation-public relationships. (Hopkins 2014: 1)
It has ta be a very brief history, then, because although the bibliography of this paper is extensive it doesn't have all that many phatic studies among them. Most are about public relations and social networking. So at least the angle is novel.
Organisations that wish to maintain good relationships with their various stakeholder groups need to utilise the full gamut of communication channels and tools that are available to ensure their messages reach a variety of audiences. (Hopkins 2014: 1)
No. Marketing ruins social networks. It's the reason why Ello and others like it are unpalatable.
Organisations had expected to achieve better results in the online social sphere, but evidence suggests organisations have not understood what the social media experience entails for users (Heller-Baird & Parasnis, 2011). (Hopkins 2014: 1)
No. Organizations need to understand that it's okay to be a user who belongs to an organization, but it's not okay to be an organization that is also a user.
For organisations to build relationships in the online social spher, they need to understand how social technologies are used to satisfy a user's personal needs and goals. Moreover, practitioners need to work within the established culture and practices of a technology (Wang, Tucker, & Rhill, 20110. Public relations scholars stress that social technologies, like more traditional communication channels, should comply with the two-way symmetrical model outlined in the Excellence theory and be used for dialogic communication purposes (Jones, Temperley, & Lima, 2009). However, the nature of social technologies is such that users now have different expectations of what it means to have a relationship with an organisation. The fundamental shift in the organisation-public power-relationship means that audiences can determine the rules of engagement. (Hopkins 2014: 2)
Maybe these are valid points, maybe not, I don't know. What I do know is that organizations mess things up on social media, a lot, as the regular rubric in ETC News demonstrates.
Navigating these changes can prove daunting for organisations that do not understand that online culture is a continually moving target that lacks context (Miller, 2008). (Hopkins 2014: 2)
That lacks context? Is that what Miller is saying when he writes about "the social contexts of individualization" and "the contexts of 'network sociality'" and "context of mobility and disembeddedness"? No. What he says is that "with the database, there is no context" (Miller 2008: 393). This is a factual statement about the nature of databases, not a characterization of online culture; "the cultural form of the network struggles with context" and immediately adds that network culture is an "ad-hoc and non-narrative in assemblage" and "The only context present is the egocentric nature of the network itself" (ibidem). It's not the case that online culture lacks context. It's that the contexts it creates are too diffused and complicated for anyone to pin down at a moments notice.
Anthropologist Bronislaw Malinowski's (1923) idea of phatic communion was developed during his ethnographic observations of the Trobriand Islander's communication practices. Malinowski defines phatic communion as "a type of speech in which ties of union are created by a mere exchange of words" (2013, p. 315). That Malinowski's concept of phatic has religious overtones has not escaped others. Ehlick (1993) suggests that the word 'communion' was possibly used to emphasise "the intensity of this type of speech". Senft (2009) quoting a personal conversation with non-verbal communication academic, Adam Kendon, states,
phatic communication is probably used because people tend to forget the more general meaning of the term 'communion'; it is precisely that achievement of 'rapport' through the use of speech - a kind of communion, indeed - that Malinowski emphasized, and this is different from what is often thought to be the meaning of communication. (p. 27)
Importantly, phatic communication "does not inform or exchange any meaningful information or facts about the world. Its purpose is a social one, to express sociability and maintaining connections or bonds" (Miller, 2008, pp. 393-394). Quick discussions about the weather while in an elevator, or asking someone how they are, fulfil an important social role. (Hopkins 2014: 2)
I have to say that I don't very much agree with this. Religious overtones? Communion is Malinowski's word for "social intercourse". The "personal communion" he is writing about is the closest approximation of "communication" but lacks the evocation of "the practical normative point of view" attributes to the communication of thought. In communication, people come together in order to share their thoughts. But in communion they just come together. The one point Malinowski does contrast the communion of words with the "breaking of bread", which is a form of Christian religious communion, but there it is contrast and contiguity that are foregrounded. So at best, it has religious undertones, and even then it would be wishful thinking to elucidate them in any way, shape or form.
Phatic communication acts as a linguistic ping that serves to maintain connection to others (Makice, 2009). (Hopkins 2014: 3)
You could have given a page number, mate. This could have been useful for me to reconceptualize the dial-up tone in phatic terms.
A technology can be described as being phatic if its purpose encourages users to build and maintain relationships and social interaction (Miller, 2008; Wang, Tucker, & Hanies, 2012). Furthermore, the technologies inherently contain characters that can be found in Malinowski's theory. For example, the technologies are not concerned with the utility of the interaction, the usefulness of the information or the usability of the device. Importantly for public relations practitioners, the value of phatic technologies is measured by the degree to which they contribute to a feeling of ongoing connectedness (Vetere, Howard, & Gibbs, 2005). (Hopkins 2014: 3)
Those are pretty broad characteristics. I'm pretty sure that the usability of a device is quite important if it is to be used for phatic exchanges. Also, Vetele et al. (2005) proposed phatic technologies for ongoing connectedness with family members. If you want to have a feeling of ongoing connectedness with an organization then there's probably something wrong with you. Its not impossible that there's at least one person who actively keeps up with the Cheetos' company twitter account. But if there is then it's a pretty safe bet that that person is not right in the head.
A content analysis on the Facebook pages of 12 New Zealand organisations found that posts made by followers were most commonly phatic in nature (Hopkins, Gray, & Gardner, 2013). Furthermore, a study of Twitter showed that phatic communion was the most common type of tweet with 40.6% of the sample adhering to characteristics of phatic communication (Pear Analytics, 2009). The study offered "I am eating a sandwitch now" as an example of a message they categorised as being 'pointless babble'. But this pejorative label undermines the value of the role that phatic communication plays in reassuring a user that their social life is alive and well (Wang et al., 2012). (Hopkins 2014: 4)
A nice addition to "meaningless dribble" and "quite trivial". (I should make a list of pejorative expressions used to characterize phaticity.) I'm very interested in what qualifications the methodological portions of those studies had for identifying a message as phatic.
Phatic exchanges in the online social sphere are meaningful to individual users "because they indicate and imply social recognition, online intimacy and sociability" (Radovanovic & Ragnedda, 2012, p. 12), and this is not what many organisations are providing. It is this meaning, which is at the very heart of the social media experience, that organisations are overlooking in their social strategies. (Hopkins 2014: 5)
How do you achieve intimacy with an organization? When it screws you out of money?
These examples of phatic posts are in line with Herman's (2013) assertion that such mundane and ephemeral activities are the "primary reason" (p. 31) that people engage in online communication activities, such as posting comments and 'liking' on Facebook. (Hopkins 2014: 6)
Good words. Not sure in the truth of the statement, though.
It could be suggested that phatic messages, such as in Figure 2 and 3, go further to achieve Grunig and Huang's (2000) relationship management goals of trust, mutuality of control, satisfaction and commitment because they are natural and meaningful forms of human communication. (Hopkins 2014: 7)
In other words, those messages aim for reciprocity. Or, in online marketing terms, engagement, which, now that I think about it, is also Ruesch's term for approach.
Facebook users have demonstrated a phenchant for the phatic and for Twitter users, the architecture of the technology imposes a phatic element to every message. (Hopkins 2014: 8)
These constructions are exactly why back-formations or neologisms like phaticity and phaticness are necessary.

Alonso, Carlos J. 2002. Editor's Column: Where Were We? PMLA 117(5): 1137-1141.

MY TITLE REFERS, FIRST, TO THAT FAMILIAR MOMENT IN a conversation when the interlocutors attempt to resume their exchange after an interruption necessitates a reestablishment of the communicative channel through an appeal to what Roman Jakobson, following Bronislaw Malinowski, called the phatic function - that is, the elements of the conversation whose purpose is to test the communication conduit. The title also alludes to that moment when one of the interlocutors, having drifted away absentmindedly, distracted by other concerns, tries to retake the thread of the conversation, which has continued for a while without his or her attention or contribution. (Alonso 2002: 1137)
Yet another angle I haven't seen before. These days it's more of a rarity to see phaticity applied on actual communication concerns.
We have all experienced these situations and know that a great deal of anxiety is associated with them. Aside from the embarrassment caused by our inattention, we always feel pressure to be the first one to identify the precise topic we were dealing with when communicative disaster struck, as if this small triumph would prove that we were paying attention all along. But the anxiety derives also from the unsettling possibility that we may not be able to pick up the thread where we left it, that in the intervening seconds of the interruption the world may have changed forever, that the original context we are trying desperately to recover may be lost for good, that the "where" in "where were we?" may have become a non-place, and... "Who is this person in front of me, anyway?" (Alonso 2002: 1137)
In general, there is an onus on any conversation to "stay on topic". Much like the phatic maxim, i.e. "Keep talking", this heretofore unnamed (or perhaps Grice did name it, I'm not sure) maxim implies that there is a thematic maxim in the style of "Keep talking on the given subject".
But if we wish to posit that there has been an ongoing conversation between these two interlocutors, we have to concede at least that it has been punctuated by extended periods of distraction in which the attention one owed to the other and to the communication channel was somewhere else. (Alonso 2002: 1138)
This is involved in something like the ever-elusive language band, the origins of which I've yet to recover (I have a feeling that I met it in Jaan Valsiner's book on cultural psychology). In any case, it's clear that we "owe" attention to our conversation partners, and unexpectedly drifting away, leaving the other to hang, is kinda like stealing. You didn't, in a sense, "pay him back" the attention he gave you.
As a participant in this conference, I was surprised to learn from a speaker of a new acronym in vogue among deans and other university administrations: LOTS (languages other than Spanish). The expcetionalism of Spanish as a foreign language in the American academy is a significant development that arises from the inappropriateness of applying the label foreign to that language. (Alonso 2002: 1138)
From here on out the paper discusses the situation of language departments. What I like about this acronym is the fact that avid music listeners sometimes have a similar categorization: I organize my music in terms of "hip-hop" and "other than hip-hop", and an acquaintance similarly organizes his music into "rock" and "not rock".
The inclusion of Latino studies, queer theory, African American and Asian American literature, film and performance studies, and Caribbean and post-colonial studies in departments of English has changed forever the category of national literature. (Alonso 2002: 1139)
This reminds me of the conservative American worry that the country is no longer a "melting pot" because of developments like the ones here listed.
For even if they might not be able to communicate with one another or have remained isolated from one another, they are, and have always been all along, foreign languages, united by and in their foreignness - a foreignness that has been imposed on them institutionally by the American academy but that they have also studiously reinforced by articulating their curricula and institutional identities through philological conceits about the organic relation among language, literature, and territory. (Alonso 2002: 1139)
Above, when remarking upon the problem with the concept of "the radius of communication", this is pretty much the problem: there are conceits about the organic relation between language and territory that are thrown out of whack with the linguistic realities of to-day.

See also:


Post a Comment